TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a meeting with his Cabinet late Sunday after Canada and the U.S. made substantial progress in free trade talks.
Two senior government officials confirmed the meeting. One of the officials said the discussions between Canada and the U.S. were ongoing, but progress was being made. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Trudeau arrived at his office Sunday night but did not comment as he walked by reporters ahead of the unusual late meeting with his ministers.
David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, said earlier that the U.S. and Canada had made a lot of progress, but there was no deal yet.
MacNaughtonsaid Sunday evening in Ottawa there were a couple of tough issues left to resolve. MacNaughton said he wasn’t sure if they would reach an agreement by Monday but said he was cautiously optimistic.
“Lots of progress, but we’re not there yet,” MacNaughton told reporters. “It’s never done until it’s done.”
The U.S. and Canada were under pressure to reach a deal by the end of the day Sunday, when the U.S. must make public the full text of the agreement with Mexico.
Canada, the United States’ No. 2 trading partner, was left out when the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement last month to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to go ahead with a revamped NAFTA — with or without Canada. It was unclear, however, whether Trump had authority from Congress to pursue a revamped NAFTA with only Mexico, and some lawmakers said they wouldn’t go along with a deal that left out Canada.
Earlier, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that by Monday morning “you will have some news one way or another that will … be big and perhaps market-moving.”
Among other things, the negotiators battled over Canada’s high dairy tariffs. Canada also wanted to keep a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wanted to jettison.
Daniel Ujczo, a trade attorney with the Dickinson Wright law firm who has followed the talks closely, said he expects the U.S. to get more access to the Canadian dairy market. The two countries are also working on an agreement that would shield Canada if Trump goes ahead with his threat to tax imported cars, truck and auto parts. Canada could be exempted from the auto tariffs if it agrees to limits on its auto exports to the United States, Ujczo said.
U.S.-Canada talks bogged down earlier this month, and most trade analysts expected the Sept. 30 deadline to come and go without Canada being reinstated. They suspected that Canada, which had said it wasn’t bound by U.S. deadlines, was delaying the talks until after provincial elections Monday in Quebec, where support for Canadian dairy tariffs runs high.