As US-Canada tensions mount, Mexico is measured on Nafta | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:34 AM, January 14, 2018

As US-Canada tensions mount, Mexico is measured on Nafta

In the run-up to the latest North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) renegotiations, friction is high between Canada and the US -- with Ottawa determined not to bow to the Trump administration's demands, while Mexico opts for a more measured approach.

Irritated by countervailing duties imposed on its exports to the US, Canada has called upon the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to denounce protectionist trade practices -- which it believes contradict international rules and affect other countries such as China.

"The action of Canada to the WTO is extremely provocative," said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, given the lurking threat of a US withdrawal from the agreement.

He added the deterioration of Canadian-American relations is "extremely worrying" ahead of the sixth round of talks, which will take place in Montreal between January 23-28.

"The Canadians think the Trump administration only understands strength," he said.

"When people see that you are firm, you get respect," was the take of Canada's international trade minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne.

According to Champagne, Canada's approach has always been constructive, and it recognises the importance of the US, its primary trade partner. "But I think the American colleagues understand when you stand strong," he added.

Canada is heading into the new round of negotiations with a "spirit of goodwill" and hopes for "a positive outcome," foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland insisted Thursday. But she added all parties must have similar good will, referencing rumours that the US may pull out of the agreement.

The three countries, in theory, have until the end of March to renegotiate Nafta, which has been in place

since 1994.

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