Canada should retaliate proposed tariffs by going to WTO: trade expert

US President Donald J. Trump speaks beside US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin during a meeting with members of his Cabinet

Mnuchin was even more definitive saying that with Canada and Mexico "our objective is to have a new NAFTA and once we do that - which I'm cautiously optimistic on - the tariffs won't apply to them".

"As such, we would fully agree with the message in support of NAFTA expressed by the associations representing the North American freight-rail industry", notes Erik Autor, president of the National Association of Free Trade Zones (NAFTZ).

He also referred obliquely to a fourth concern looming in the political backdrop.

Talks to overhaul the 24-year-old pact are moving slowly, in part because Canada and Mexico have resisted USA demands to boost the North American content of autos produced inside NAFTA.

Despite these hurdles, he said, it will just require political will on the part of all three.

US NAFTA trade negotiator said Canada and Mexico will get an exclusion from US steel and aluminum tariffs if they sign a new NAFTA agreement.

Speculation that President Trump is using his threatened steel tariffs as a ploy to renegotiate NAFTA may not play well with shippers associations.

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Lighthizer made public remarks that appeared to confirm something he allegedly told members of Congress behind closed doors a few weeks ago - leaving a meeting, they said he'd described the negotiations with Canada as more hard, and was willing to complete talks with Mexico first.

Officials have so far been evasive when asked how the three nations can keep trying to update NAFTA at a time when Trump is about to take a highly protectionist measure. "Right now, 100 per cent (chance we proceed with tariffs)", Trump said Monday in the Oval Office.

USA trade representative Robert Lighthizer said the talks had "not made the progress that many had hoped in this round" and said the U.S. was prepared to "move on bilateral basis" if no tripartite agreement could be reached.

Mr. Lighthizer said the USA would prefer to reach a three-way agreement on Nafta but would still consider bilateral accords if that isn't possible. American trade law requires a six-month consultation period with congressional committees as one of several processes before any final vote.

"Now our time is running very short, " he said at an event to close a round of talks in Mexico City, standing beside his colleagues Chrystia Freeland and Ildefonso Guajardo.

"We absolutely would like to get a deal done. NAFTA is a complicated trade agreement". Those tariffs would average two per cent on Canadian exports and 2.1' per cent on USA imports. Freeland said she considers the negotiations separate.

During the latest round, negotiators concluded talks on rules governing food safety and animal health, good regulatory practices, plus administration and publication, officials said.

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