Canada has made clear it is prepared for any eventuality in the face of high trade tensions with the United States ahead of a sixth round of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations on Jan. 23 in Montreal.
Ottawa has reiterated that it stands united in a message that the government will “stand strong” in defense of Canadian interests as top officials attend a retreat in London, Ont., a day after Reuters reported that Canadian officials believe the U.S. will leave NAFTA.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have said from the start of NAFTA renegotiation in 2017 between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico that they are prepared for any outcome, including a U.S. withdraw, which would take six months.
Foriegn Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday that it’s “no secret” that Washington could trigger a withdraw as U.S. President Donald Trump has repeated his disgust for the trade deal, once calling it the “worst trade deal” ever created.
In an apparent confirmation of the Reuters report, Freeland said Ottawa is treating the U.S. president and officials as a serious threat to talks.
“Our approach from the start has been to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” Freeland was quoted by CBC as saying, reiterating that “Canada is prepared for every eventuality”.
Trade tensions over the lumber, forestry, dairy and aerospace industries have inflamed conflict between Ottawa and Washington, even reaching high-level talks between Trudeau and Trump themselves.
However, Freeland said NAFTA negotiations are separate from the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said on Thursday that the United States will renegotiate NAFTA or “pull out” in response to an inquiry about Canada’s World Trade Organization filing that occurred on Wednesday.
More details to follow. Image of Canada and United States flags from U.S. government website.