Tillerson to kick off maiden Canada trip amid NAFTA controversy

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-19 12:34:45|Editor: Yang Yi
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday will kick off his first trip to Canada since taking office, U.S. State Department officials said Monday.

Tillerson's trip comes as the U.S.-Canada relations are being tested by the increasing controversy over the U.S. demand for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico, Canada and the United States have been renegotiating NAFTA since August, at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has alleged that the 23-year-old agreement has harmed his country and has threatened to withdraw from it.

Washington continues to "work hard toward modernizing NAFTA" to reach "a deal for fair and reciprocal trade," the officials told a teleconference.

"As you know, it was 25-plus years ago that the treaty was initially negotiated. A lot of things have changed since then. I think according to our logic, there are lots of ways that we could all benefit from a modernization of the agreement," they said.

During his trip, Tillerson will meet with his Canadian counterpart, Chrystia Freeland, among other senior Canadian officials in Ottawa, with the aim of boosting the bilateral relations, the officials said.

The top U.S. diplomat is expected to continue the dialogue on U.S.-Canada mutual prosperity, defense, and security, and discuss shared concerns on global issues. He will also talk about Venezuela issue, border security and economic relationship, they added.

Bilateral war of words escalated as the U.S. International Trade Commission earlier this month unanimously voted that Canadian softwood lumber imports have been damaging to the U.S. lumber industry.

For its part, Canada has challenged the U.S. tariffs under the NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The NAFTA dispute panel was reportedly to make its ruling by next fall, and the WTO process could take years.