In a sign that Ottawa is getting increasingly nervous about the future of its crucial trade relationship with the United States, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is off to Washington to launch a charm offensive on U.S. lawmakers and the country’s volatile president.
Trudeau, flanked by a delegation of his top ministers and aids responsible for the foreign affairs and international trade files, is arriving in Washington D.C. for meetings with President Donald Trump and pro-trade American lawmakers, amid concerns the talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) might collapse.
The mood at the talks between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. has soured as the negotiators have failed so far to make significant progress even on the issues that were considered the easiest to resolve.
In addition, the U.S. is expected to introduce its most contentious demands at the upcoming fourth round of negotiations.
Then there is the festering dispute over softwood lumber and the 300 per cent duty that the U.S. Department of Commerce has slapped on the Canadian plane maker Bombardier over the alleged subsidies the company receives from the federal and provincial governments.
Wheels up for DC & Mexico City this week – lots of work to do with our allies on trade, jobs, gender equality & growing our economies. pic.twitter.com/nF2L08Aq04
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) October 10, 2017
On Wednesday morning, Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will meet with members of the influential House Committee on Ways and Means, hoping to build an alliance with pro-free trade lawmakers.
In the afternoon, Trudeau will meet with Trump for a tête-a-tête meeting followed by an expanded bilateral meeting, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The meetings in Washington, ahead of Trudeau’s trip to Mexico, come as the biggest U.S. business lobby is starting to sound the alarm.
The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed concern Tuesday that the negotiations have been designed to fail, the Canadian Press reported.
Tom Donohue singled out his own country’s proposals — for auto parts, for dispute resolution, for Buy American procurement rules, and for a sunset clause that could terminate NAFTA after five years.
“There are several poison pill proposals still on the table that could doom the entire deal…. All of these proposals are unnecessary and unacceptable,” Donohue said, according to a prepared text.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached a critical moment. And the chamber has had no choice but ring the alarm bells.”
With files from The Canadian Press