As NAFTA talks set to resume, Americans appear split on moving forward without Canada

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will head back to Washington on Wednesday as work continues to try and hammer out a NAFTA deal.

But those discussions will come on the heel of renewed attacks by the American president on Canada, including a weekend tweet in which he suggested there is no “political necessity” for the U.S. to keep Canada in any renewed deal, as well as a new poll that suggests Americans are split over whether they want a revised deal to actually include Canada.

An online poll done last week by the American news website Axios asked 2,433 American adults about Donald Trump’s handling of the negotiations and found 50 per cent of respondents supported the proposed NAFTA replacement — details of which are not yet clear — while 43 per cent did not.

As well, 49 per cent oppose going ahead with a renewed deal if it does not include Canada.

Forty-six per cent said they would support ditching Canada’s signature.

The margin of error is three percentage points.

Negotiations this week between Canada and the U.S. are set to tackle outstanding, thorny issues, including supply management, auto manufacturing quotas and dispute resolution measures.

The U.S. and Mexico last week announced a tentative agreement to replace the existing trade deal.

That agreement is not a new trade deal between the two countries, which Trump does not currently have the authority from Congress to negotiate, despite claims from the president to the contrary.

Congress has authorized fast-track negotiations to revise the trilateral NAFTA deal, not full negotiations for an entirely new bilateral trade deal.

“If the U.S. wanted a bilateral deal — and they don’t, they’ve repeated often they want a trilateral deal — they don’t have legal authority,” said Raymond Bachan, Quebec’s chief NAFTA negotiator and a former provincial finance minister, last month.

“They have the authority from Congress to negotiate a trilateral NAFTA deal in a fast-track way — meaning Congress votes yes or no on the final deal once it’s been reached. They don’t have that (fast-track) authority for a bilateral deal.”

The renewed negotiations will also take place under the cloud of comments Trump confirmed he made last week in an interview with Bloomberg News.

In the remarks, which Trump and that outlet agreed would be off-the-record, the president said the U.S. was not negotiating at all with Canada and that any revised deal would be “totally on our terms.”

However, The Toronto Star later reported on the comments after receiving them from a source of its own. The Star was not bound by the original agreement between Trump and Bloomberg News.

Trump later confirmed that report on Twitter, saying, “At least Canada knows where I stand!”

Sources confirmed to Global News that Canadian negotiators confronted the Americans over the comments.

Neither Freeland nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have directly commented on them publicly, though.

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