OTTAWA – Chrystia Freeland and Mexico’s future foreign minister are noncommittal when it comes to when they expect the United States to lift its stinging tariffs on steel and aluminum products from their countries.
Canada and Mexico have responded to the American tariffs by imposing their own retaliatory levies on U.S. imports – and the dispute has failed to disappear even after the three countries reached an agreement-in-principle this month on an updated North American free trade pact.
Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, offered no timeline Monday on when the U.S. will remove the duties as she fielded questions during a joint news conference in Ottawa alongside Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s incoming foreign affairs minister.
“I’d love them to be lifted today – there is nothing at all stopping any of us from lifting these tariffs,” Freeland said.
“We think that would be great further evidence of the importance of the North American partnership and that is what we’re communicating very directly to our U.S. partners.”
Ebrard, who will assume the foreign minister’s portfolios Dec. 1 when Mexico’s incoming government takes power, said through an interpreter that he thought the removal of the tariffs “might occur” once the new trade agreement is signed.
The meeting between Freeland and Ebrard was one of several meetings in Ottawa on Monday between the Trudeau government and Lopez Obrador’s future cabinet ministers. They also sat down with International Trade Minister Jim Carr and Mexico’s incoming economy minister, Graciela Marquez.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to meet the Mexican officials later in the day.
Earlier this month, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. struck an agreement-in-principle on a new trade deal that narrowly beat a deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress. The aim was to get the deal fast-tracked and voted on by Dec. 1, ahead of Lopez Obrador’s incoming government.
Asked how committed the new Mexican government is to approving the trade deal, Ebrard said, “we believe that it’s not the very best agreement, but we do need to support the advances that have been made.”
He added that the Mexican congress is examining the details under consideration.
“We believe that it’s worth supporting the agreement, looking to the future of all three countries,” said Ebrard, who offered no timetable as to when the deal could be ratified.
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