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Canada FM Postpones UN Speech as Trade Talks Intensify

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland postponed her U.N. speech Saturday as free-trade talks between the U.S. and Canada intensified.

Freeland had been scheduled to deliver Canada’s address to the General Assembly in New York, but Canada exchanged the slot with another country. Freeland may or may not give the speech on Monday.

A senior Canadian government official said they were making progress in the talks but that it wasn’t certain that they would reach a deal soon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Canada would sign only a good deal.

Canada, the United States’ No. 2 trading partner, was left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement last month to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. and Canada are under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the day Sunday, when the U.S. must make public the full text of the agreement with Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to go ahead with a revamped NAFTA, with or without Canada. It is unclear, however, whether Trump has authority from Congress to pursue a revamped NAFTA with only Mexico, and some lawmakers say they won’t go along with a deal that leaves out Canada. 

Dairy tariffs

Among other things, the negotiators are battling over Canada’s high dairy tariffs. Canada also wants to keep a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wants to jettison.

U.S.-Canada talks bogged down earlier this month, and most trade analysts expected the Sept. 30 deadline to come and go without Canada’s reinstatement. They suspected that Canada, which had said it wasn’t bound by U.S. deadlines, was delaying the talks until after provincial elections Monday in Quebec, where support for Canadian dairy tariffs runs high.

But trade attorney Daniel Ujczo of the Dickinson Wright law firm, who follows the NAFTA talks closely, said the United States put pressure on Canada, contending there would “consequences” if it didn’t reach an agreement by the end of the day Sunday. Trump has repeatedly threatened to start taxing Canadian auto imports. Ujczo put the odds of a deal this weekend at 75 percent. 

Relations between the two neighbors have been strained since Trump assailed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Group of Seven meeting in June, calling him “weak” and “dishonest.” Canadian leaders have objected to Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel, citing national security.

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