- The Trump administration notified Congress on Friday it intends to enter a bilateral trade deal with Mexico — and Canada can join later.
- Talks between US and Canadian officials broke down on Friday, in part due to leaked Trump comments saying the US doesn’t intend to compromise.
- More negotiations between Canada and the US are scheduled for next week, and representatives from both countries said Friday they’re hopeful a trilateral deal can be reached.
- But lawmakers and trade groups were skeptical of Trump’s US-Mexico deal, saying Canada must be included in the final version.
Lawmakers and trade groups reacted with skepticism and dismay on Friday, after the Trump administration notified Congress of its intent to enter a bilateral trade deal with Mexico — and Canada could join later “if it is willing.”
Negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement between US and Canadian officials went on through much of the week, but abruptly fell apart on Friday after remarks were leaked from President Donald Trump, who reportedly said he didn’t intend to compromise with Canada at all.
According to The Toronto Star, Trump told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday that any deal reached would be “totally on our terms” and suggested that Canadians would have “no choice” but to go along with the plan out of fear that Trump would impose auto tariffs.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, however, said in a statement Friday that it will continue negotiating with Canada with the intent of eventually including the country in a trilateral NAFTA deal.
But backlash against the US-Mexico deal quickly ensued. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the deal an “incomplete NAFTA notification” in a statement, saying that fixing the trade deal would require both Mexico and Canada.
“We still don’t know the specifics of this trade agreement, or whether it will measure up to the claims of an Administration with a terrible record of delivering,” Pelosi said. “I remain hopeful of progress, but without a final agreement with Canada, the Administration’s work is woefully incomplete.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, tweeted that his state’s economy is intertwined with Canada’s — as are most states across the country.
“I cannot support a trade agreement to replace NAFTA that does not include Canada, Vermont’s biggest trading partner,” he said. “There would be grave concerns on both sides of the aisle about proceeding with an incomplete agreement.”
Beyond just lawmakers, trade groups reacted with concern, and in some cases, anger.
“After a week filled with insults directed at Canada, today’s announcement that the United States is notifying Congress of its intention to sign a trade deal with Mexico is disheartening,” Sharon Treat, senior attorney of the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, said in a statement. “America’s farmers deserve better. A NAFTA deal without Canadian participation is not a completed deal.”
The Information Technology Industry Council also said a bilateral deal would risk harming American companies and workers, and negate any positive effects of the trade agreement.
“Any such changes to the existing NAFTA agreement would be highly disruptive to global supply chains and to the regional economy,” ITI CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement.