OTTAWA — The federal government is still expecting NAFTA talks to accelerate this summer even though U.S. President Donald Trump says he’s in no rush to sign a deal until after the U.S. midterm elections this fall.
A government official familiar with the plan says now that Mexico’s presidential election is done, Ottawa wants to restart talks as soon as possible, even though Trump says he won’t sign a new deal until after U.S. voters go to the polls in November.
The effort to restart stalled negotiations on the North America Free Trade Agreement comes with Canada and the U.S. swapping punitive tariffs on imports in an ongoing cross-border trade fight.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said she spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer six times last week and that she expects NAFTA talks to move into a higher gear this summer.
Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he supported renegotiating NAFTA, and wants his own team of experts to be part of the talks before he takes office Dec. 1.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity about a matter they weren’t authorized to discuss publicly, says until Lopez Obrador is sworn in, members of the current Mexican administration will continue to serve as the country’s lead NAFTA negotiators.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Lopez Obrador by phone, and the two discussed “mutually beneficial economic and trading relationship between the two countries, and their shared priority of updating the North American Free Trade Agreement for the betterment of their peoples,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
In an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News, Trump said he could quickly sign a revised NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, but instead wants to land a better deal for the U.S. Asked about the timing of an agreement, Trump said: “I want to wait until after the election.”
— with files from Associated Press