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NAFTA Trump hints at bilateral deals with Canada, Mexico

President Donald Trump suggested Friday the United States might pursue separate free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico to replace the 24-year-old three-nation NAFTA pact.

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President Donald Trump, right, suggested the United States might pursue separate free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico to replace the 24-year-old three-nation NAFTA pact play

President Donald Trump, right, suggested the United States might pursue separate free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico to replace the 24-year-old three-nation NAFTA pact

(AFP)
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President Donald Trump suggested Friday the United States might pursue separate free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico to replace the 24-year-old three-nation NAFTA pact.

The announcement came as Ottawa and Mexico City announced they were retaliating against steep metal tariffs imposed Friday and Washington faced a barrage of complaints at a finance ministers summit in Canada.

"To be honest with you, I wouldn't mind seeing NAFTA where you'd go by a different name where you make a separate deal with Canada and a separate deal with Mexico," Trump told reporters.

"You're talking about a very different two countries."

Negotiators from the three North American partners have failed to reach an agreement to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump again called "a terrible deal."

Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that Washington's decision to impose the tariffs -- Canada provides half of all US aluminum imports -- had lessened the chances for a successful outcome of the NAFTA talks.

Morneau said the US tariffs had also weakened the prospects for successful negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Certainly, these actions taken on these tariffs are not ones that are conducive to a positive dialogue," he told reporters as a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers got underway in British Columbia.

"It's a negative for Canadians. We as a job have to defend Canadians. It puts us in a position where we're defending first principles, which is Canadians' rights to a strong and healthy economy for their families."

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that Washington would not extend tariff exemptions for Mexico and Canada because the current NAFTA talks were "taking longer than we had hoped."

There is "no precise date" to reach an outcome, he added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had also said Thursday that US Vice President Mike Pence had insisted on including a "sunset" privision -- which would require the trade pact's renewal in five years -- as a precondition for a meeting to handle out final details.

Canadian officials and much of US industry consider this a poison pill and Trudeau said no meeting occurred as a result.

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