Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

It's possible NAFTA talks could resume as soon as Tuesday between Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing more resistance to his threat to move ahead with an exclusive U.S.-Mexico trade deal that leaves Canada without preferential access to the American market.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, warned the Trump administration on Friday that the North American free-trade agreement should be maintained as a trilateral pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada and not just a U.S.-Mexico arrangement.

Any trade deal that is reached will be reviewed by the next Congress that convenes in January and Ms. Pelosi could be the Speaker of the House if Democrats win this November’s elections. “I think it should be trilateral,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters of the trade accord, adding she does not think it would be “in the interest of this hemisphere” to turn NAFTA into a bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Mexico.

It’s possible top-level NAFTA talks could resume as early as Tuesday between Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. But that has yet to be decided.

Ms. Freeland and Mr. Lighthizer are expected to talk by telephone on Sunday or Monday to discuss whether the Canadian cabinet minister should return to Washington on Tuesday for more negotiations, a source familiar with the talks said. Mr. Lighthizer signalled to the Canadians he would be available if warranted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week, the source said.

The source describing the Canada-U.S. talks rejected the notion that talks were going nowhere and characterized discussions as inching forward on a range of subjects. Chief Canadian negotiator Steve Verheul spent Thursday in Washington in discussions with his U.S. counterpart but flew to Toronto for meetings on Friday with Ms. Freeland.

The chief of Canada’s dairy lobby, Dairy Farmers of Canada president Pierre Lampron, met on Friday in Toronto with Ms. Freeland, Mr. Verheul and other staff about the NAFTA talks.

Veteran trade consultant Peter Clark said his impression is that progress is being made, however incrementally. “They are making haste slowly," he said.

Talks have been stalemated over Canada’s heavily protected dairy market and the future of the binding Chapter 19 appeal process for companies hit by anti-dumping or countervailing duties. The United States wants to water down or eliminate NAFTA’s Chapter 19, win significant new access to Canada’s dairy market and relax foreign-ownership restrictions on Canadian media companies by removing a cultural-exemption clause in the trade pact. So far, Canada has been unable to obtain a guarantee from the United States that the country would not be hit with punitive U.S. auto tariffs if Ottawa agrees to a new NAFTA deal.

In late August, the United States and Mexico announced a proposed sweeping bilateral deal to overhaul NAFTA and are pressing Canada to accept or risk getting kicked out of the continental trade pact. The Americans and Canadians have been negotiating since to see whether they can reach an arrangement that would allow all three countries to move forward.

The Trump administration has threatened to proceed without Canada and has set Sept. 30 as the deadline for the text of the proposed U.S.-Mexico agreement to be hammered out.

Mexico is not resisting the Trump effort to cut out Canada. Kenneth Smith Ramos, Mexico’s chief negotiator, was unapologetic this week about Mexico’s intention to move ahead even without Canada. “We hope the U.S. and Canada will conclude their bilateral negotiation shortly,” he said via Twitter. “If that is not possible, we [Mexico] are ready to advance bilaterally with the U.S."

Ms. Pelosi is not the first member of Congress to warn Mr. Trump off trying to push a U.S.-Mexico deal through. Others include Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who has said a revised trade deal would not pass the Senate unless it included Canada, which he described as the United States' “greatest trading partner.”

With reports from Reuters

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe