London, Ont. | Reuters — Canada welcomes the suggestion by U.S. President Donald Trump that the deadline for concluding talks to modernize NAFTA could be extended beyond the end of March, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Friday.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that “a lot of things are hard to negotiate” ahead of a Mexican presidential election in July.
“I thought that was a sensible suggestion from the President. I think all of us are mindful of the Mexican elections,” Freeland told reporters on the sidelines of a federal cabinet retreat.
Talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, which are due to wrap up by end-March to avoid clashing with the Mexican vote, have bogged down amid major disagreements.
In his remarks on Thursday, Trump reiterated his threat to announce a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty unless major changes are made but said he was “leaving it a little bit flexible” until after the election.
“We have always felt that imposing artificial deadlines was not necessary from the Canadian standpoint… I thought that was a constructive proposal from the president,” said Freeland.
Trump wants the 1994 deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico overhauled to better serve U.S. interests.
–– Reporting for Reuters by David Ljunggren.