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Morneau optimistic on NAFTA talks

March 12, 2018  

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NAFTA negotiations are weighing on companies’ investment plans and both Canada and the U.S. are hoping to make rapid progress in talks, according to Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

“There are some businesses that are being cautious in investments because there is an expectation that NAFTA could be slightly different tomorrow than it was yesterday,” Morneau told Bloomberg News Monday in London. “What’s been clear from the American standpoint is they are anxious to have a conclusion to NAFTA as near term as possible — we’re trying to work constructively towards that goal.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has, for the time being, exempted Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs. He has nonetheless threatened to impose the tariffs after all if the countries ultimately fail to secure an update to the trade deal.

Asked whether that means Canada will be on the back foot in trade talks, Morneau said “we’ve shown that we can deal with the steel and aluminum tariffs as a separate issue.”

No date has been announced for the next round of discussions, though Canadian and Mexican ministers said after the last round of negotiations that they’re looking forward to starting them up again in Washington in April.

On Canada’s future trading partnership with the U.K. — which is currently under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement — Morneau told Bloomberg News any post-Brexit arrangement would have at least as much trade as the two countries enjoy currently.

“To the extent that we can get a better arrangement with the U.K. in the future, that’s positive,” he said. Canadian officials have previously indicated that any replication of CETA with the U.K. after it quits the European Union could go further in areas like financial services.