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Canada’s Justin Trudeau says informal NAFTA talks likely in next few days at U.N.

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Trudeau: “Certainly the fact that many of our negotiators, many of our teams, will be in New York at the same time [means] it’s very likely that conversations continue in a constructive but less formal way.” Photo credit: Reuters

MONTREAL — U.S. and Canadian officials trying to reach a deal on NAFTA are “very likely” to hold informal talks on the sidelines of a major U.N. meeting in the next few days, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday.

With time running out ahead of a U.S.-imposed deadline of the end of September, negotiators are making slow progress on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump struck a side deal on NAFTA with Mexico last month and has threatened to exclude Canada if necessary. He also said he might impose a 25 percent tariff on Canadian auto exports, which would damage Canada’s economy.

Trump took office last year vowing to tear up NAFTA unless major changes were made to a pact he blames for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer — the two top officials at the talks — are due to be in New York on Monday and Tuesday for the U.N. General Assembly.

“Certainly the fact that many of our negotiators, many of our teams, will be in New York at the same time [means] it’s very likely that conversations continue in a constructive but less formal way,” Trudeau told reporters.

Trudeau, speaking after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, said nothing had formally been arranged. A Freeland spokesman declined to comment.

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