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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. President Donald Trump, at Winfield House, in London, on Dec. 3, 2019.Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump says his country’s legislators have to ratify the new North American free-trade deal before Mexico and Canada lose interest in finalizing it.

He and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in London on Tuesday afternoon, on the sidelines of a summit of NATO leaders. Beforehand, Trump said he wouldn’t blame Trudeau or Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for walking away while the deal waits for a vote in the U.S. Congress.

The Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives haven’t brought the trade deal up for a vote amid concerns about enforcing environmental and labour standards on Mexican employers. Trump, who faces an impeachment inquiry in the same chamber, has been trying to pressure them for months to move on the treaty.

“We look forward to being able to take the vote on USMCA. It’s been there for a time,” Trump said, referring to the deal by its acronym.

He went on to say that Lopez Obrador and Trudeau “will get tired” of further delays.

“They’ll say, ‘Look, let’s forget this deal,’ and I could understand if you did,” Trump said.

“It’s been sitting in Congress now for six or seven months and it’s a great deal for everybody. So hopefully they can get it done and get it done fast.”

Sitting next to Trump, Trudeau said he thinks the relationship between Canada and the United States has never been stronger, and refused to bite on a reporter’s question about whether he’s threatened to abandon the trade agreement.

“We have had lot of great conversations about how we’re going to keep moving forward to benefit workers in all three of our countries and we’re very confident that we’re going to be able to get there,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau praised the work the U.S., Canada and Mexico have done to get the new NAFTA approved in all three countries’ legislatures. Lead negotiators for all three countries met over several days last week, trying to agree on refinements that could get the deal congressional approval.

Finishing the agreement is important enough to the Liberals that Trudeau asked Chrystia Freeland, the former foreign-affairs minister, to keep responsibility for it when he named her deputy prime minister and intergovernmental-affairs minister (a job normally focused on domestic relations with the provinces) last week.

“We’re very, very hopeful that we’re going to have good news soon,” Trudeau said.

The three countries signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement nearly a year ago, but it doesn’t take effect until it’s approved by their legislatures.

Mexico has ratified the deal. Canada has pledged to do so “in tandem” with the United States.

Trudeau’s Liberals introduced a ratification bill in the House of Commons earlier this year, but it made no progress before dying with the election call in September.

President Donald Trump criticized Canada’s defence spending, saying it was “slightly delinquent” against targets set by NATO. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded by saying Canada has made significant investments in defence but has also stepped up to provide military support to NATO.

The Globe and Mail (staff)

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