ECONOMY

Bilateral trade deal with Canada possible: Trump

BILATERAL TRADE DEAL WITH CANADA POSSIBLE: TRUMP

If the renegotiation of a free trade deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico fails, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would be willing to do a deal directly with Canada.

The U.S. President made the remarks in the Oval Office while he and his wife Melania welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his spouse Sophie.

But Trump was vague on whether the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks, which resumed in Virginia, Wednesday, would succeed.

"We'll see what happens," the president said to reporters with Trudeau standing alongside. "We have a tough negotiation and it's something that you will know in the not too distance future."

Trump has previously mused that NAFTA might be a dead agreement if the U.S. does not get what it wants, reflecting the oft-repeated mantra of the president's America First policy. In fact, he told business magazine Forbes this week that NAFTA must be "terminated."

However, his statement Wednesday about entering into a new deal with Canada marks the first time Trump has said that publicly.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau addressed the members of the House of Representatives Committee that oversees trade.

"The U.S. sells more to Canada than it does to China, Japan and the U.K.-combined,' Trudeau told them. "We are already your biggest customer."

In 2016, the two countries traded, in total, two-way goods valued at US $544 billion, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative website.

Committee members agreed that the deal with Canada was of benefit to both countries.

However, the committee's top Republican said he wanted Canada to open up its dairy sector to the U.S. and the ranking Democrat wanted to institute cultural free trade, opening up "non-discriminatory access to the Canadian … markets that Canadian creators have here in the United States."

Canada shelters some cultural industries such as broadcasting and filmmaking.

Canada does have allies as the three countries renegotiate NAFTA.

That includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where CEO Tom Donohue said that the White House may deliberately be trying to kill the free-trade deal.

"There are several poison pill proposals still on the table that could doom the entire deal," he said in a speech in Mexico City, Tuesday.

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