Canadian Foreign Minister optimistic on trade

WASHINGTON (AP) — Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said her meeting Tuesday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was “a very good, constructive conversation” about how to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland told reporters after the meeting she and her team plan to work this week in “a full-steam effort” and said both parties will start diving into specific issues this morning.

Freeland hurried to Washington a day after the Trump administration reached a preliminary deal Monday with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

She doesn’t have much time, because Lighthizer intends to formally notify Congress of the deal with Mexico on Friday.

Freeland said both parties “are set for an important and constructive week” but also warned that “we are prepared for all scenarios.”

She said significant concessions from Mexico in the areas of labor and rules of origin on cars “really paved the way for what Canada believes will be a good week.”

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Mexico had agreed to ensure that 75 percent of automotive content be produced within the trade bloc (up from a current 62.5 percent) to receive duty-free benefits and that 40 percent to 45 percent be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. Those changes are meant to encourage more auto production in the United States.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first time Freeland had met with her U.S. counterparts in Washington since May.

Canada, America’s longtime ally and No. 2 trading partner, was left out of a proposed deal Trump reached with Mexico and is scrambling to keep its place in the regional free-trade bloc — and fend off the threat of U.S. taxes on its vehicles.

In announcing the deal Monday, Trump said he wanted to call it the “United States-Mexico Trade Agreement,” pointedly omitting Canada.