Trump pushes separate trade deal with Canada

President Donald Trump sings the National Anthem during a ‘Celebration of America’ event at the White House in Washington. The US president is reported to be ‘seriously contemplating’ making separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 June 2018

Trump pushes separate trade deal with Canada

  • Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow: “He prefers bilateral negotiations and he is looking at two such different countries.”
  • Mexico Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo: NAFTA has been “highly beneficial” and attracts foreign investors seeking access to the North American market.

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is “seriously contemplating” making separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico in place of the two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement, and has broached the idea with Ottawa, a White House official said Tuesday.
“He prefers bilateral negotiations and he is looking at two such different countries,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox News.
Canadian and Mexican officials, however, said they remained focused on a three-nation trade deal to revise the 1994 trade pact.
“It is out of the question for now” to conclude a bilateral agreement between Canada and the United States, the senior Canadian official said.
The official downplayed, but did not deny, an earlier a comment that Ottawa was “not ruling out” a separate trade deal with the United States to replace NAFTA.
“We have not reached a point where a request has been made for a bilateral agreement... and we remain strongly focused on a trilateral renegotiation of NAFTA.”
Mexico Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said NAFTA had been “highly beneficial” and attracted foreign investors seeking access to the North American market.
“We believe that the agreement would lose value were it to stop being what it is today and we want it to continue to be: a trilateral integration of the continent,” he said.
Word of the possible change in strategy comes as Washington faces unified opposition from Group of Seven economies, who have vowed to retaliate against Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
Mexico on Tuesday released a more detailed list of specific US products facing retaliatory import duties, including a host of steel products, pork, fruits, cheese and bourbon.
Kudlow said he was awaiting a reaction from top Canadian officials to whom he had relayed the idea on Monday.
“I’m waiting to hear what their reaction is going to be frankly. I spoke yesterday to one of their top people, right next to the prime minister. He will probably get back to me sometime today,” he told Fox News.
He said he hoped the response would come “as soon as possible and move the whole process forward.”
Kudlow noted that talks to revamp NAFTA had “dragged on” so separate deals “might be able to happen more rapidly.”
Trump “is seriously contemplating a shift in the NAFTA negotiations ... (and) he asked me to convey this,” he said, adding that the president “believed bilateral is always better. He hates large treaties.”
Trump on Friday had publicly floated the idea of having individual agreements to replace NAFTA, which he again called “a terrible deal.”
The Canadian official noted that Trump had raised this bilateral alternative last year when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House.
Trump initially threatened to pull out of the three-nation pact. Talks to revise and modernize the deal have been underway since August 2017 but snagged on US demands to increase US content in duty-free NAFTA autos as well as a five-year sunset clause.
Negotiations are now suspended due to the coming elections in Mexico and the United States.
The Canadian official said there were currently no plans for another round of NAFTA talks but officials “remain in touch by telephone and email.”
Kudlow said Trump “will not withdraw from NAFTA. He will try a different approach.”
“The important thought is he may be moving quickly toward these bilateral discussions instead of as a whole,” Kudlow said, but noted it is not clear how soon that would happen.
The NAFTA talks are just one facet of Trump’s confrontational, multi-front trade policy, which includes imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from chief US allies — Canada, Mexico and the European Union — which has prompted sharp retaliation.


Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

Updated 26 min 32 sec ago

Lithuania confirms first case of coronavirus

  • Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Nigeria on Friday announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa

VILNIUS: Lithuania reported on Friday its first confirmed case of coronavirus, the government said, as the disease spreads rapidly worldwide.
Hopes that the virus would be contained to China vanished, with countries beginning to stockpile medical equipment and investors taking flight in expectation of a global recession.

New Zealand's health ministry on Friday also confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus in a person who recently returned from Iran.

Belarus registered the first case of coronavirus infection in the country, Russian news agency TASS reported, citing the Belarussian Ministry of Healthcare.
"We would like to inform you that February 27 tests conducted at the Republican Scientific and Practical Center of epidemiology and microbiology showed the presence of coronavirus 2019-nCoV in one of the students from Iran," TASS quoted the ministry.

In Greece, two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to three.
The health ministry said one of the cases concerned a relative of a 38 year old woman in the northern town of Thessaloniki, the first confirmed case reported in Greece. The woman had recently returned from Milan in northern Italy.
Meanwhile, Nigeria announced the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.
The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.
“The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos,” Ehanire said.
Italy has become a hotbed of infection in recent days, with the largest outbreak in Europe.
But the low number of cases across Africa, which has close economic ties with China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak, has puzzled health specialists.