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Trudeau declines to meet Trump over NAFTA

  • 31 May 2018

Canada's Trudeau says US scuttled North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal which was well within reach after its insistence on the inclusion of a five-year sunset clause.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during the ASEAN Canada 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit on the sideline of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 14, 2017. ( AFP )

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he thought a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) deal was well within reach, but it was scuttled by US insistence on the inclusion of a five-year sunset clause.

As a result, Trudeau declined to go to the White House this week for a face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump because renegotiating NAFTA every five years was “totally unacceptable”.

Trudeau disclosed the details of what happened during his press conference Thursday to address newly-resurrected US steel and aluminum tariffs.

Trudeau said he talked to Trump by telephone last Friday and offered to meet him in Washington because the new deal was so close that it needed only a “final deal-making moment”.

He said Trump seemed agreeable.

“I stated that I thought we were quite close to reaching an agreement, and perhaps the time had come for me to sit down with the president in Washington in order to finalise the NAFTA agreement,” Trudeau said.

But Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence called and said unless the Canadian prime minister agreed to the sunset clause, there would be no use in meeting.

Trudeau then declined to meet Trump.

“I had to highlight there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause, and obviously the visit didn’t happen,” Trudeau said.

Both Canada and Mexico have balked at the clause, saying that renegotiating NAFTA every five years would lead to uncertainty for businesses and damper long-term investments.

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