Skip to main content

A worker in the Magna plant in Puebla, Mexico, Wednesday, January 22, 2015. Magna produces a number of car parts that are used by a variety of different car manufactures. Puebla has a growing auto industry.

Brett Gundlock/ Boreal Collectiv

U.S. President Donald Trump launched a fresh auto-tariff threat against Canada late Friday at a time when Ottawa finds itself in a holding pattern on NAFTA negotiations as it awaits the completion of one-on-one talks between the United States and Mexico.

In a tweet that appeared to reference NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S. president said the “deal with Mexico is coming along nicely” and that “Canada must wait.”

Trump then sent a warning to Ottawa: “Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high. Will tax cars if we can’t make a deal!”

Story continues below advertisement

Bilateral NAFTA negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico have been building momentum in recent weeks after taking a break in late May ahead of Mexico’s July presidential election. The one-on-one talks are expected to extend into next week.

Canada, however, has yet to return to the NAFTA table this summer.

Related: U.S., Mexico close to agreement on auto wages for NAFTA deal

Some observers have raised concerns about Canada’s absence from recent high-level negotiations on the three-country trade deal. There have been warnings Canada could be put in a position where it might have to accept a deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Canadian officials have insisted Ottawa hasn’t been sidelined during the U.S.-Mexico discussions, arguing there have been lots of bilateral talks between NAFTA partners during the year-long renegotiation process.

To complicate matters, the already rocky Canada-U.S. relationship has deteriorated since the partners suspended talks in the spring.

Trump slapped Canada and other allies with steel and aluminum duties, which led to retaliatory levies from Ottawa. He has also made repeated threats to apply far more damaging tariffs on the deeply integrated automotive sector. And in June, Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau very dishonest and weak” shortly after he left the G7 meeting in Quebec.

Story continues below advertisement

On Friday, his critical tweet about Canada made a point of praising Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman,” tweeted Trump, who also wrote that autoworkers and farmers “must be taken care of or there will be no deal.”

Earlier Friday, a source familiar with Ottawa’s NAFTA effort said Canadian negotiators would not be returning to the bargaining table in Washington until the U.S. and Mexico find common ground on their outstanding issues, especially the complex sticking points around the auto sector.

If the U.S. and Mexico can resolve their bilateral differences in the coming days, the source said it’s “very possible” Canada’s team — potentially including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — could rejoin negotiations later in the week.

Media reports said Friday’s NAFTA discussions between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo ended with bilateral work still to be done. On his way out of the meeting, reports said Guajardo indicated the two sides have made progress and will meet again next week to continue their talks for a fourth straight week.

“We continue to be in the same position where Mexico and the U.S. need to continue to work out their issues,” said the Canadian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Story continues below advertisement

“The next obvious question is, do we have a firm date of Canada physically going to join the talks? And the answer is no, as long as the U.S. and Mexico have not resolved their issues, specifically auto.”

The source added that Freeland and David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., remain in regular contact with relevant officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexican governments have both expressed optimism the entire NAFTA deal could be concluded before the end of the month.

MacNaughton said in an interview last week that predictions NAFTA can be settled by the end of August are “aspirational.” However, he added that he supports the effort and that Canadian negotiators are ready to work long hours to help make it happen.

Once Canada returns to the talks, the continental partners are expected to shift their focus to other tough, unresolved issues.

MacNaughton has listed some of those stubborn areas. He said they include dispute resolution, agriculture issues, intellectual property, government procurement, the proposed inclusion of a five-year sunset clause and the de minimis threshold, which is the maximum value of an item that Canadians can order from a foreign country without paying duties or taxes.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter