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US auto tariffs would be 'devastating' for both sides, says Canada's Trudeau

2018-09-04T212706Z_1393380995_RC1E978C80D0_RTRMADP_3_TRADE-NAFTA-CANADA.JPG
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Tuesday that potential US auto tariffs could be "devastating" for industry in both countries, which are pursuing fraught talks to strike a bargain on a revamped continental trade pact.

[WASHINGTON] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Tuesday that potential US auto tariffs could be "devastating" for industry in both countries, which are pursuing fraught talks to strike a bargain on a revamped continental trade pact.

US President Donald Trump also said Tuesday the talks, which both countries intensified in recent weeks, were coming along well. There were no outward signs of a breakthrough, however.

After a year of effort, Washington and Mexico City announced an agreement in late August and Mr Trump's administration has informed Congress it plans to sign a new treaty by November 30, including Canada if possible.

Mr Trump has also raised the pressure on Ottawa, threatening to impose duties on Canadian auto imports, something Mr Trudeau said Tuesday would be "devastating" for the Canadian auto sector.

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"But it would also be devastating to the American auto industry. It would cause a massive disruption and I think lots of layoffs in the United States," Mr Trudeau said on Canadian radio.

"I think it's something that we obviously have to be aware the president is contemplating."

But in reaching a new Nafta, Canada is protecting its interests but also "looking to be flexible because it's time to update this deal after 25 years," he said.

At the White House, Mr Trump told reporters Canada wanted a deal "very much" and that talks were "coming along well."

"We have all been dealing in good faith," he said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland returned to Washington on Tuesday to continue meeting with her US counterpart, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

She pointed to the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as a reminder of the need for close cooperation between Ottawa and Washington.

"I think that remembering today, and what happened today, maybe that helps us all to put into perspective the negotiations that we're having," Ms Freeland told reporters, noting the "importance and significance" of US-Canadian ties.

"At the end of the day, we're neighbours," Ms Freeland said. "At the end of the day, neighbors help each other when they need help."

'STILL SOME DISTANCE' 

Ms Freeland later emerged after meeting with Mr Lighthizer, saying talks were occurring in a "good" atmosphere.

"The atmosphere is absolutely professional," she said.

Major stumbling blocks for Ottawa and Washington remain: an international system for resolving disputes, Canada's protected dairy industry, and Canadian cultural subsidies.

"We're negotiating all this at once. These are complicated subjects and there's still some distance" separating the two sides, said one source close to the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe pending negotiations.

Still, "with a bit of flexibility, things could move quickly."

Ms Freeland is due to depart Washington later in the day to attend this week's meetings of the governing Liberal Party of Canada in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Also on Tuesday, US Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft delivered an address in Gander, Newfoundland, where dozens of in-bound flights were diverted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Forget what you read about Nafta negotiations and Twitter wars. That's not who we are," Ms Craft said in prepared remarks.

"Sure, it's business and it's important, but Gander is the place that - in a snapshot - illustrates the Canada/US relationship."

AFP

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