Chrystia Freeland says Canada prepared for ‘strong offensive position’ on NAFTA

When asked what Canada might be looking to gain if NAFTA is reopened, as the new U.S. administration has vowed to do in order to get a “better deal” for American workers, Freeland put her game face on.

“It’s good to be good at playing defence, but the best defence is a strong offence,” she said. “And Canada definitely will be and is good at taking strong offensive positions.”

“We will do that if and when negotiations begin,” she said, emphasizing again Wednesday, as she did in the House of Commons last week, that no formal talks have begun, despite reports that Mexico was beginning a 90-day consultation period with its stakeholders leading up to a presumed start of negotiations later this spring.

Freeland was in Washington for her second day of talks with senior congressional leaders, culminating in a meeting with her newly sworn in U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday morning.

Tillerson, she said, has a “very deep understanding of our economic relationship,” something she said was an advantage for Canada.

Freeland told reporters several times that no formal NAFTA talks can begin at the moment because the counterparts Canada would deal with, Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and the nominee for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, have yet to be confirmed by Congress and sworn in to assume their duties.

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