SASKATOON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is brushing aside pressure for his government to finalize a renewed free trade deal with the United States before the end the month.
Ottawa and Washington are working to reach an agreement that needs to be submitted to the U.S. Congress before October in order to join the deal the Trump administration signed with Mexico in August.
Trudeau says Canada’s negotiators have seen multiple deadlines imposed on talks, only to see negotiations continue long past them.
Speaking to reporters at a caucus retreat, the prime minister says negotiators will work to finalize an agreement before the end of the month, but plan to make sure they get the right deal for Canadians, not just any deal.
“We have seen various deadlines put forward as markers to work for,” Trudeau said.
“We’re going to continue to work towards the right deal for Canadians, a good deal for Canadians, and we’ll do the work needed and try and get there as quick as we can, but we’re going to make sure we’re doing what is necessary to get the right deal for Canadians.”
Trudeau’s comments came at the end of a caucus retreat aimed at plotting strategy for next week’s resumption of Parliament and laying the ground work for the run up to next year’s federal election.
Trudeau kicked off the Liberal caucus retreat on Wednesday with a distinct election flavour, touting the government’s record on aid for Canada’s middle class and stating emphatically that his party will always stand up for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At his closing press conference, Trudeau spoke of his government’s plan to introduce pay equity legislation — first promised in this year’s budget — and ratify a trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations, including Mexico.
He said that the Liberals will also stay focused on NAFTA talks, started last year at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump, to strengthen “the most successful trading relationship perhaps in the world.”
The outcome of negotiations, now in their 13th month, will determine the economic and trade relationship between the three North American countries, with the prospects of numerous workers and industries hanging in the balance.
Donald Trump has threatened to forge ahead with a deal with Mexico if Canada can’t come on board by the Sept. 30 deadline to provide Congress with a preliminary text of an agreement.
Congress is already in a 90-day window to review the one-on-one deal with Mexico, which both sides want to have signed before Dec. 1 when Mexico gets a new president.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Trump mused about renaming the trade pact “USMC” — with M referring to Mexico and C for Canada — based on his disdain for the NAFTA moniker.
The report said Trump groused about Canada’s negotiators and expressed his frustration with the neighbour to the North. He reportedly said he was willing to go ahead with a “USM” deal and drop the C if Canada didn’t sign on.
Trudeau said he has given little thought to the name of a renewed trade agreement, focused instead on issues that “will have a direct impact on Canadians’ jobs, on our economic growth and our prospects.
“These are things that we’re working on very seriously, rolling up our sleeves on. I don’t think we’ve spent much time talking about what the name or potential name or renaming could be,” he said.