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Freeland, Lighthizer resume NAFTA talks as Trump’s Friday deadline looms [UPDATED]

Difficult discussions about dairy and dispute settlement remain


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WASHINGTON—Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the time has come to make decisions on the future of NAFTA.

She says around-the-clock work by officials has armed negotiating teams with the documents they need to start making some concrete calls as the U.S. and Canada accelerate their effort to wrap up the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland has been in meetings in Washington this week with her American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Their officials worked late into the night to find areas of common ground and compromise.

“Our officials did some work, they prepared some issues for me and Ambassador Lighthizer to take some decisions,” Freeland told reporters Thursday during a pause in the talks.

“We’re about to go in, continue negotiating and do precisely that.”

This week’s new round of U.S.-Canada negotiations has generated hopeful signals from both camps that a deal could be struck by the end of the week. Freeland also met with Lighthizer on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

But difficult discussions about dairy and dispute settlement remain.

U.S. President Donald Trump added a layer of urgency to the negotiations Monday after announcing a deal with Mexico—with an ultimatum that Canada would have to join their pact by Friday or suffer the consequences of punishing tariffs on its auto sector.

But on Wednesday both he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed optimism a new continental accord could be reached by Friday.

As another possible sign of progress, Trudeau is scheduled to hold a conference call with premiers on Thursday afternoon to discuss the NAFTA negotiations. Freeland will be on the call, as will Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, and Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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