WASHINGTON: The United States hopes to strike a quick bargain with Canada after reaching an agreement with Mexico this week on continent-wide trade, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was due in Washington to begin talks later Tuesday, one day after US President Donald Trump suggested he could cut Ottawa out of any final deal if disagreements persist in the year-long efforts to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“I think our objective is to try to get Canada aboard quickly,” Mnuchin said on CNBC.
“The US market and Canadian markets are very intertwined. It’s important for them to get this deal and it’s important for us to get this deal.”
Washington and Mexico City on Monday announced that they had smoothed over disagreements, agreeing to a regular review process to reauthorise the trade deal and higher wages for certain auto workers, among other matters.
Mnuchin said he was optimistic that Canada could be won over — but, like Trump, he warned that absent an agreement with Ottawa, Washington could take a bilateral route.
“I think we’ll be successful but again, if we don’t, we’ll move forward with Mexico and then we’ll reach a separate agreement with Canada,” Mnuchin said.
Canadian officials say their country’s signature is “required” for a successful outcome in the NAFTA talks and it remains unclear whether Washington lawmakers would cooperate with efforts to pursue bilateral talks instead.
Canada “will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada,” a spokesman for Freeland said Monday.
Senior Republican lawmakers and industry representatives have insisted this week that a final deal should include all three countries.
Mnuchin also said Tuesday he believed a trade agreement could be reached quickly with Britain, which is in fraught negotiations to exit the European Union.
“We are very much ready to do a free trade deal with the UK. So whenever they’re ready, as President Trump has said, they’re at the front of the bus, not the back of the bus,” he told CNBC.
“They’re a great ally, they’re a great trading partner in financial services and goods and we welcome more opportunities for US companies.”