US and Canadian negotiators are working around the clock to strike a trade deal that will include Canada in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
US officials have imposed a September 30 deadline for finalisation of the agreement.
Canada was left out when the United States and Mexico reached an agreement last month to revamp the NAFTA.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland is trying to get the Number 2 US trade partner reinstated.
“Our officials are in pretty much constant contact,” she told reporters late last week after a meeting with her counterpart, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “It would not be an exaggeration to say they are working 24/7.”
Freeland has returned to Canada for a summit of women foreign ministers but said she and Lighthizer remain in close contact by phone and email.
The countries are under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the month, when Lighthizer must make public a copy of the full text of the agreement with Mexico. Until then, he has time to bring Canada back into the regional trading bloc.
Freeland shrugged off the September 30 deadline, saying she cared only about “getting a deal that is good for Canada and good for Canadians.”
US 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 Canada out.
Among other things, the negotiators are battling over Canada’s high dairy tariffs and policies meant to keep the country’s culture from being overwhelmed by US movies and television.
Canada also wants to keep a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the US wants to discard.
Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian private-sector union Unifor, expressed “guarded optimism” about the talks.
The US, he said, “is now recognizing that there is not going to be a deal” if it does not make some concessions to Canada.