Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Freeland to rejoin talks with US, Mexico after they agree to overhaul NAFTA

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will head to Washington on Tuesday to re-join face-to-face negotiations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will head to Washington on Tuesday to re-join face-to-face negotiations with the United States and Mexico on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland, who will cut short a diplomatic trip to Europe to re-enter the high-level talks, is making the sudden change in plans after U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. and Mexico had reached a bilateral trade “understanding” that could lead to an overhaul — or perhaps the termination — of the three-country agreement.

In making his announcement, Trump extended an invitation to Ottawa to join what he’s cast as American-Mexican trade negotiations, which have stretched through the summer without Canadian officials at the table.

Trump also threatened Canada that if it can’t reach a new trade deal, then he will slap it with devastating tariffs on automotive imports.

“We’ll start negotiating with Canada relatively soon, they want to negotiate very badly,” Trump said in the Oval Office, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joining by speaker phone.

“But one way or the other, we have a deal with Canada. It will either be a tariff on cars, or it will be a negotiated deal; and frankly a tariff on cars is a much easier way to go, but perhaps the other would be much better for Canada.”

Through an interpreter, Pena Nieto reminded Trump four times Monday that he hoped Canada would be part of an eventual trilateral agreement.

“It is our wish, Mr. President, that now Canada will also be able to be incorporated in all this. And I assume that they are going to carry out negotiations on the sensitive bilateral issues between Canada and the United States,” the Mexican president said.

Related: U.S., Mexico reach trade ‘understanding,’ door opens for Canada

Later Monday, Freeland spokesman Adam Austen said in a statement: “Given the encouraging announcement today of further bilateral progress between the U.S. and Mexico, Minister Freeland will travel to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to continue negotiations.”

Freeland was in Europe for five days of diplomatic visits to Germany, Ukraine and France.

Earlier in the day, Trump suggested he would terminate the 24-year-old trilateral pact with Canada and Mexico — a deal that has been critical for the Canadian economy — and replace it.

“When that happens, I can’t quite tell you, it depends on what the timetable is with Congress, but I’ll be terminating the existing deal and going into this deal,” he said.

“We’re looking to help our neighbours. If we can help our neighbours, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. So, we’ll start that negotiation imminently. I’ll be speaking with Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau in a little while.”

Trump also wants to re-baptize the trade agreement with Mexico.

“I like to call this deal the United States-Mexico trade agreement,” he said.

“I think it’s an elegant name. I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States because it was a rip off.”

Canada has been absent from the NAFTA bargaining table since trilateral talks paused last spring.

Observers have raised concerns that Canada’s absence from the talks could put Ottawa in a position where it might be pressured into accepting a less-appetizing deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trudeau has insisted his government will only sign a deal that’s good for Canada.

Following Trump’s announcement, Trudeau’s office issued a statement saying the prime minister spoke with Pena Nieto on Sunday about NAFTA’s renegotiation and ”shared their commitment to reaching a successful conclusion to this agreement for all three parties.”

Trump also called on Canada to negotiate fairly, especially when it comes to dairy products.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Township open burning winds down

Spallumcheen reminds residents of regulation changes as open burning concludes April 30

Mission to host Easter dinner for homeless

“From the staff, volunteers and guests of the Upper Room Mission, we wish you all a Happy Easter.”

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Fire near Vernon airport “not a concern”

Vernon firefighters attended the scene and found a resident performing a controlled burn

Keep an eye on this up-and-coming Vernon director

15-year-old Bowen O’Brien celebrates filmmaking successes.

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates stops by Okanagan café

Coates was spotted in West Bank’s Kekuli Café on April 20

B.C. women make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read