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With less than a week to go before the deadline, the U.S. is ready to move ahead on a new NAFTA-style agreement with or without Canada, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday.
On the heels of an agreement with Mexico covering a range of issues, Lighthizer said negotiations with Canada remain at an impasse.
"We're not going to say 'no deal because of Canada.' That doesn't make any sense at all," he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "We're certainly not going to give up. They're a huge trading partner of the United States. But we're going to have a high-standard deal, we're not going to have a low-standard deal."
President Donald Trump essentially tore up the old North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1992 and enacted in 1994. The deal was aimed at tearing down U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade barriers, but Trump has complained that the U.S. got the short end of the deal.
Negotiations between Mexico and the U.S. produced a new deal that Lighthizer said the U.S. is determined to sign before Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office Sept. 30.
If Canada is not on board by then, the formerly trilateral deal will become a bilateral agreement.
"We're going to go ahead with Mexico," Lighthizer said. "If Canada comes along, that would be best. If Canada comes along later, then that's what will happen. We certainly want to have an agreement with Canada."
Judging by current conditions, though, a deal does not appear imminent.
"The fact is, Canada is not making concessions in areas where we think they are essential," Lighthizer said.
"This is a once-every-20-years opportunity to correct protectionist things and make trade better," he added.
The U.S. ran a $17.1 billion goods deficit with Canada in 2017. However, adding in services the U.S. actually had a trade surplus of $8.4 billion last year with its partner to the north. The U.S. also had a $7.4 billion surplus with Mexico but still had an overall $63.6 billion deficit when including goods.