Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump’s newfound flexibility on NAFTA renegotiations.
In an interview Thursday with the Wall Street Journal, the president indicated he’s open to extending the March deadline for concluding talks aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, U.S. and Mexico.
While Trump once again threatened to terminate the agreement unless the sides could agree on a fair deal, he said he was “leaving it a little bit flexible” until after Mexico’s presidential election in July.
“I understand that a lot of things are hard to negotiate prior to an election,” Trump said. “They have an election coming up fairly shortly. I understand that makes it a little bit difficult for them.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of a cabinet retreat in London, Ontario, on Friday, Freeland welcomed Trump’s comments.
“I thought that was a sensible suggestion from the president,” Freeland said. “I think all of us are mindful of the Mexican elections and certainly as far as Canada is concerned, we have approached these negotiations with good will, we’ve done our homework, we are working extremely hard.”
She said Canada has always taken the position that it’s not helpful to impose artificial deadlines on the talks.
Freeland said Canada is prepared to spend as much time as it takes to get a good deal.
The sixth round of NAFTA talks will be held in Montreal Jan. 23 to 28.
Many of the bread-and-butter, business chapters are reaching a closing stage, and officials are developing new, creative ideas to respond to “unconventional” U.S. proposals, Freeland said Thursday.
Nevertheless, the federal government said it was ready for any eventuality.
“Our approach from the start has been to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. So Canada is prepared for every eventuality,” Freeland said Thursday. “That is a whole-of-government operation.”
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News