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Trump says open to bilateral Canada, Mexico pacts if NAFTA talks fail

Trump says open to bilateral Canada, Mexico pacts if NAFTA talks fail

Stephen Harper broke his public silence on current events by offering a gloomy assessment on the state of international trade, describing anti-trade sentiment in the U.S.as a long-term problem that predates the Trump administration, that lacks an easy fix, and could well result in the end of NAFTA.

One of the few areas where there is broad agreement between the Trump and Trudeau governments is that Mexico needs to raise labour and environmental standards in order to even the playing field. "But we are going to be discussing NAFTA, and we'll be discussing defense because we have a great - I mean, these are truly great and original allies, and their mutual defense is very important", Trump said.

Other contentious U.S. proposals opposed by Canada, Mexico and much of the U.S. business community include a five-year sunset provision on deals, an overhaul of NAFTA's dispute arbitration systems, revisions to intellectual property requirements and new protections for U.S. seasonal produce growers. It's possible we won't be able to make a deal and it's possible that we will. "It has to be fair to both countries".

Trudeau insisted that NAFTA talks kicked off in "good faith" Wednesday, although Trump has refused to commit to the pact.

He said he is advising companies to start planning for the possibility of life without NAFTA.

Decoding such messages was the task before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who heard the full range of Trump's views during his visit to the White House on Wednesday.

"We have to protect our workers and, in all fairness, the prime minister wants to protect Canada and his people also".

And in what sounded like a direct shot at Trump, he said: "We're not negotiating this treaty on social media or through Twitter".

Mr Trudeau is scheduled to visit Mexico on Thursday to hold additional discussions on Nafta. "There was certainly tension between the three head negotiators, led on the U.S. side by USTR Robert Lighthizer".

Negotiations have struggled to gain momentum as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cautioned that the Trump administration's impractical requests could harm the talks.

Trump's hardline positions in the negotiations are drawing increasing resistance in the U.S., leaving the administration isolated at the negotiating table.

He said content rules for auto parts were still negotiable, despite shock in Mexico at suggestions half of all parts in cars should be made in the US, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday he expected an agreement would be reached on that issue.

"Clearly, Mexico's willingness to collaborate would not be as enthusiastic if you are mistreated on one front", he told Mexican reporters this week. "We have always understood that draining the swamp would be controversial in Washington".

The move comes after US aircraft maker Boeing complained that its Canadian rival had received over $3 billion in subsidies from the Canadian federal government and the Quebec provincial government combined. And American trade negotiators are also talking tough on dairy and wine.