OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Washington next week to meet US President Donald Trump just as continental trade talks are expected to heat up, his office announced Tuesday.
The prime minister will press Trump on “international security and our vital trade and economic relationship,” said a statement.
Trudeau will continue trade talks in Mexico after his Washington stop.
Canadian, Mexican and US trade representatives last week trumpeted strides made in a third round of continental free trade talks in Ottawa, but warned of challenges ahead when negotiations resume on October 11 in Washington.
At the same time, Canada-US trade relations hit a recent low over US dumping accusations levelled against Canada´s forestry sector and aerospace firm Bombardier.
“We are making solid headway on bread and butter issues,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said after five days of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) last Wednesday.
But, she added, some of the “hardest issues or proposals” have not yet come up for discussion.
Trump ordered a renegotiation of NAFTA and threatened to pull out of the pact if the United States did not get a better deal, calling the existing 1994 accord the worst trade deal ever signed.
He has largely focused on the US-Mexico trade imbalance. But he has also pressured Canada to open up its protected dairy market.
Ottawa and Washington are among the world´s closest allies and trading partners, with more than half a trillion (US) dollars worth of goods exchanged annually.
But the US Commerce Department´s announcement last week that it would impose a steep countervailing duty on Bombardier´s new CSeries jetliners was met with outrage.
Trudeau warned he would call off a US$5.2 billion purchase of 18 Super Hornet fighter jets to partially replace its ageing fleet of F-18s if the aircraft´s manufacturer Boeing did not drop its anti-dumping lawsuit against Bombardier.
He also drew a line in the sand, saying Ottawa would walk away from the trade talks if Washington insisted on a demand to nix NAFTA dispute resolution tribunals.
Trudeau previously met Trump at the White House in February.
“The United States is Canada´s top economic partner, and it´s important that we continue to work together to strengthen trade, investment and economic opportunity for people on both sides of our border,” Trudeau said.
Immediately following his October 12-13 trip to Washington, Trudeau will head south for his first official visit to Mexico, where he will also discuss trade with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Trudeau said he looked forward also to meeting with Pena Nieto and Mexican civil society to “deepen relations between our two countries.”