Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to the media as she arrives at the Office Of The United States Trade Representative, Tuesday, in Washington. Freeland left the U.S. capital later Tuesday to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to discuss NAFTA strategy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Freeland back in Canada to confer with Trudeau on NAFTA strategy

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Canadian and U.S. North American Free Trade Agreement negotiators have temporarily retreated to their corners to consolidate strategy ahead of continuing talks.

The two sides must submit an agreed-upon text to the U.S. Congress by Oct. 1 in order to join the agreement the U.S. signed last month with Mexico.

Canadian negotiators, led by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left Washington Tuesday night to travel to Saskatoon to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus, which is holding a retreat this week to plan strategy.

Prime Minister Trudeau addresses supporters at a Liberal fundraising event on Tuesday in Winnipeg. The Liberal caucus is meeting this week to discuss–among other things–the NAFTA negotiations. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan)

Freeland told reporters in Washington the talks are at a point where discussing them Trudeau is “absolutely essential.”

Trudeau warned Tuesday of what he termed “massive disruption” and job loses on both sides of the border if Washington follows through on threats to impose auto tariffs.

Negotiations in Washington have focused primarily on three key issues: dairy, culture and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.

In Ottawa, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said he is confident that Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump can “rebuild” their relationship after what Mulroney described as “a very rough patch.”

Mulroney has served as an unofficial go-between between the two leaders, both of whom he knows well.

With files from CBC, CP, AP, CTV, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail

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