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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in Ottawa to talk trade, taxes

by Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press   

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In his first visit to the national capital, treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin is scheduled to meet with Finance Minister Bill Morneau, along with cabinet ministers, government officials and some business leaders

OTTAWA—Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau will discuss trade, taxes and infrastructure when he meets Friday in Ottawa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

In his first visit to the national capital, Mnuchin will also meet with cabinet ministers and government officials.

He’ll also take part in roundtable meetings with business leaders at an event hosted by the Business Council of Canada.

Since Mnuchin was sworn in a few months ago as U.S. President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, he’s already met with Morneau four times.


But with NAFTA’s renegotiation on the horizon, the developing relationship likely means more delicate discussions are ahead.

Morneau said in an interview earlier this week that he planned to speak with Mnuchin about areas where the two will try to work together as they move toward talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We’ve had a good series of meetings already,” Morneau said. “This Friday is very much about building on what I think is a good relationship.”

The pair will also discuss how best to grow their economies as well as global challenges, he added.

Mnuchin received Morneau as his first visiting finance minister after he took office in February. They’ve also met during G7 and G20 events.

Mnuchin’s trip to Ottawa will be the first by a U.S. treasury secretary in a decade, a senior Treasury official said Thursday.

“I think that’s reflective of the strong bonds that Secretary Mnuchin and Minister Morneau have forged at a variety of meetings,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the trip in advance.

Mnuchin’s department expects the lawmakers to cover a range of economic policy issues.

The official said the subjects will likely include tax reform in Canada and the U.S., infrastructure financing with emphasis on the use of both public and private sources of capital, financial regulatory issues, bilateral trade and some early discussions on NAFTA.

“We’re not, of course, looking to start (NAFTA) negotiations yet with Canadians on any topic—it’s premature for that and we still have some domestic work to do,” said the official.

The 90-day consultation period required by U.S. domestic law only started a few weeks ago, the official added.

“We’d like to at least get a sense from the Canadian side what they’re thinking of in terms of timing and issues.”

The official said the talks will also likely cover issues related to defence spending, citing this week’s Liberal government unveiling of its new defence policy review.

Canadian officials and business leaders are expected to emphasize that the relationship between the two countries is working well.

Mnuchin will also be joined on his trip to Canada’s capital by Dina Powell, Trump’s deputy national security adviser.

Powell, who had been Trump’s assistant and his senior counsellor on economic initiatives, was involved in the creation of a Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.

In February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trump announced the joint initiative, which is aimed at helping businesses owned by women as a way to lift economic growth, competitiveness and the integration of the two economies.

The business roundtable is expected to include a segment that focuses on women entrepreneurs.


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