US says Canada not making concessions needed for NAFTA deal

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The prime minister, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr fielded questions on everything from Canada's protracted NAFTA talks, to Venezuela's escalating human rights crisis, to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut Canada out of a trade agreement if the country does not agree with his terms.

"There is still a fair amount of distance between us", Lighthizer said at a conference in NY, according to press reports.

His comments, along with those from Donald Trump's trade czar Tuesday, suggest the USA will begin to finalize its pact with Mexico while somehow continuing talks with Canada, and holding open the possibility of tucking the northern nation into the deal at a later date.

President Trump suggested that a potential U.S. -Mexico-Canada trade deal could be called USMC.

Hours earlier, in New York, Trudeau gave Canada's NAFTA-talks nemesis a gentle nudge during his own closing news conference that followed the General Assembly.

Relations between the two neighbors have been strained since Trump assailed Trudeau at the G-7 meeting in June, calling him a "weak" and "dishonest" back-stabber.

Despite efforts to get Canada on board with a new NAFTA deal by Sunday, negotiators are far from finalizing a new trilateral trade agreement.

Trump has used an obscure "national security" provision of USA trade law to impose tariffs on imports of Canadian steel and aluminum.

The United States will likely retain more auto-industry jobs after Mexico agreed to impose minimum salary requirements on the sector - at least $16 an hour for between 40 and 45 percent of workers, five times what most earn now.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there was "some distance" between the two sides on issues such as access to Canada's dairy market and how best to settle trade disputes.

"I'm not going to use the name 'NAFTA, '" he said. "Frankly, we're thinking of just taxing cars that come in from Canada".

The U.S. -Mexico pact has prompted many of Canada's business and political leaders to ramp up pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cut his own deal with the United States.

"They (the United States and Mexico) made certain agreements".

Speaking separately, Canada's ambassador to Washington said that on a scale of 1 to 10, the chances of an agreement by the Sept 30 deadline were 5.

The remarks by Trump, who repeated a threat to impose tariffs on Canadian autos, knocked the Canadian dollar down to a one-week low against the US greenback.

"How do you sell a dairy product at 300 percent?" he said, adding that it is obviously Canada's way to back-door a trade barrier disguised as a tariff.

"I love Canada, by the way", he said.

Asked what he would do if Canada were excluded, Trudeau said, "we will keep working on a broad range of alternatives". It's been very bad for the United States.

Trump did not say what representative he meant. "Canada will come along". "I think Canada would have acted similarly". Trudeau said he has "all sorts of opportunities" to speak with Trump, "and that was not the time".