LONDON — U.S. President Donald Trump says his country’s legislators have to ratify the new North American free-trade deal before Mexico and Canada lose interest in finalizing it.
Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Tuesday in London on the sidelines of a summit of NATO leaders. Beforehand, Trump said he wouldn’t blame Trudeau or Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for walking away while the deal waits for a vote in U.S. Congress.
The Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, haven’t brought the deal up for a vote amid concerns about enforcing environmental and labour standards on Mexican employers.
“We look forward to being able to take the vote on USMCA. It’s been there for a time,” Trump said, referring to the deal by its acronym.
He went on to say that Lopez Obrador and Trudeau “will get tired” of further delays.
“They’ll say, ‘look, let’s forget this deal,’ and I could understand if you did,” Trump said.
“It’s been sitting in Congress now for six or seven months and it’s a great deal for everybody. So hopefully they can get it done and get it done fast.”
The deal has become sharply debated in the U.S., where there are fading hopes Congress will ratify it by the end of the year.
Sitting next to Trump, Trudeau said he thinks the relationship between Canada and the U.S. has never been stronger.
“We have had lot of great conversations about how we’re going to keep moving forward to benefit workers in all three of our countries and we’re very confident that we’re going to be able to get there,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau praised the work the U.S., Canada and Mexico have been doing to get the new NAFTA approved in all three countries’ legislatures. Lead negotiators for all three countries met over several days last week, trying to agree on refinements that could get the deal congressional approval.
“We’re very, very hopeful that we’re going to have good news soon,” Trudeau said.
The three countries signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement nearly a year ago, but it doesn’t take effect until it’s approved by their legislatures.
Mexico has ratified the deal. Canada has pledged to do so “in tandem” with the United States.
Trudeau’s Liberals introduced a ratification bill in the House of Commons earlier this year, but it made no progress before dying with the election call in September.
Aside from his meeting with Trump, Trudeau is set to spend much of Tuesday working to strengthen the NATO military alliance, though all eyes in London will be on Trump.
The U.S. president met on Tuesday morning with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where he took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron last month had suggested the 70-year-old NATO military alliance was suffering from “brain death” because of a lack of communication and co-ordination between its 29 members. That included Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria without notifying America’s allies.
In his meeting with Stoltenberg, Trump lashed out at Macron, saying France needed NATO far more than the U.S., which needed it the least of all allies. Trump did nonetheless say the alliance was important.
Trump has previously waffled between public support for NATO and questioning its worth during his time in the Oval Office, which has raised concerns about the alliance’s viability as global instability is on the rise.
NATO was established by the U.S., Canada and several Western European countries after the Second World War to guard against the Soviet Union.
The alliance has become a cornerstone of Canada’s defence from external threats and a driver in its relations with democratic Europe even as it has evolved to face the rise of terrorism, a newly assertive Russia and, more recently, China.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 3, 2019.