Canada, US Push Toward NAFTA Deal by Friday

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In the leaked remarks, the US President said he wasn't making any compromises at all during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations with Canada, and that the deal will be signed "totally on our terms".

Officials had appeared to be on track to reach a deal that would rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement, but in a freakish twist, inflammatory comments from President Donald Trump angered Canadian officials and threatened to upend the talks.

At an event in Charlotte, Trump said, as he did on Twitter, that he was not unhappy that the Star published the remarks he had made "off the record" to Bloomberg News in an interview on Thursday.

Trilateral talks were already underway at the technical level and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo was expected to soon rejoin talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, possibly later on Thursday, people familiar with the process said.

"We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach", she added.

After Trudeau spoke with regional leaders, they appeared to soften their tone in defense of Canada's protected dairy sector, suggesting a compromise may be in the works that would grant the U.S. greater access to the Canadian milk market.

US officials said negotiations with their Canadian counterparts will continue next week, and Canada may join the US-Mexico agreement "if it is willing".

Trump has been a critics of NAFTA for decades and during his presidential campaign described it as "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere".

Earlier Friday, the Trump administration pushed Canada to give ground on its politically sensitive dairy sector, which is protected by a system of quotas given to domestic farmers.

Mr Trump's warning about a possible USA pull-out from the WTO highlights the conflict between his protectionist trade policies and the open trade system that the WTO oversees.

United States and Canadian trade officials set plans to resume their talks on Wednesday with the aim of getting a deal all three nations could sign. This explained the president going ballistic when Trudeau publicly repeated that Canada was insulted by American tariffs.

On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported on concerns voiced by Canada's trade team that a pact may not be reached on Friday, citing a source close to the negotiation. The deal also proposes requiring a significant portion of automobile parts - 75 percent - be made in the USA and Mexico. Freeland vented her frustration at what she characterized as the Americans' "winner-takes-all mindset", while Lighthizer said he was "surprised and disappointed by resistance to change from our negotiating partners".

But under US trade rules, the USA team wouldn't have to make public the text of the revamped agreement for 30 additional days, possibly buying more time to reach a deal with the Canadians. But, from the moment Trump announced his bilateral understanding with Mexico, some trade law experts have said he's overstepping the authority Congress gave him previous year to try to update NAFTA.

Canadian and USA trade officials failed to come to an agreement by a deadline imposed by President Trump, but both sides said that progress had been made.

Pressed once more to talk Trump, she said curtly: "I'll take the next question".

While Freeland said the USA trade team was negotiating in good faith, a Canadian source told AFP that Ottawa expressed their disapproval to Lighthizer.

Trudeau has to balance the auto tariff threat against the political fallout that would probably come if he's seen as caving to Trump on issues of major importance to Canada, including dairy prices and dispute resolution (so-called "Chapter 19"). "We´re looking for a good deal, not just any deal".