Canada’s foreign affairs minister says Tuesday’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States should serve as a reminder of the deep ties between the two countries as they haggle over the future of North American free trade.
Chrystia Freeland underlined the anniversary at the start of another day of trade talks aimed at breaking an impasse on a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement.
The renegotiation of the 24-year-old NAFTA, which also includes Mexico and is integral to the continent’s economy, has dragged on for 13 months.
The in-person, high-level negotiations got back underway as events marking the 17th anniversary of the 2001 attacks took place around the U.S., including at the Pentagon with Vice President Mike Pence, not far from where the trade meetings are taking place.
Freeland said the memorials should help to add some context to the ongoing negotiations on free trade that were started at Trump’s behest.
“Maybe that helps us all put into perspective the negotiations that we’re having — and also put into a little bit of historical perspective the importance and the significance of the relationship between Canada and the United States,” Freeland told reporters outside the offices of her counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“At the end of the day we’re neighbours, and at the end of the day, neighbours help each other when they need help.”
Freeland and Lighthizer left the bargaining table Friday without a deal following two weeks of negotiations. She said she spoke with Lighthizer over the weekend and they agreed it would be useful for them to meet again face to face.
“The conversations over the weekend continued to be constructive and productive,” she said.
Freeland will spend Tuesday in the U.S. capital before she heads to Saskatoon to attend Liberal caucus meetings that begin later in the day and run through Thursday.
Lighthizer spent Monday in Brussels for trade discussions with the European Union — preliminary talks that are scheduled to resume later this fall.
Ottawa and Washington are trying to reach an agreement that could be submitted to the U.S. Congress by month’s end. A deal would see Canada join a preliminary trade agreement the Trump administration struck last month with Mexico.
The two sides have so far been unable to resolve their differences over U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market, a cultural exemption for Canada and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.
A Canadian source with knowledge of the NAFTA discussions says an agreement is within reach, but getting there will require flexibility from all sides.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during an interview Tuesday with a Winnipeg radio station, CJOB, that there are certain positions Canada has and remain firm on. But he said the Liberals plan to be flexible on other issues in order to get a deal.
“It’s time to update this deal after 25 years. We’re just going to stay working constructively to get to that win, win, win that we know is there,” he said in the interview.
There is another wild card in Washington: hurricane Florence, a monster Category 4 storm that’s bearing down on the U.S. east coast and is sure to make its presence felt in the national capital area later in the week.
The Canadian Press