US-Mexico tariffs tiff won't derail Canada trade treaty ratification: Freeland

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Ottawa (AFP)

Canada's foreign minister on Friday renewed Ottawa's commitment to ratifying a new continental trade pact, after President Donald Trump threatened to hit Mexico with tariffs over migrant crossings into the US.

Ottawa's position is unchanged, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters. "And that is, we are now ready to proceed with ratification of NAFTA here in Canada." In Canada the new treaty is known popularly as NAFTA 2.0

"As Canadians know, we began that process this week," she added.

Her comments followed Trump's threat late Thursday that if Mexico did not do more to stop the flow of undocumented migrants into the US, he would impose tariffs that would start at five percent on June 10, then rise by five percentage points per month to a level of 25 percent from October.

The number of migrants apprehended at the US-Mexican border has topped 100,000 a month in recent months, according to the US government.

They are mostly people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to ask for asylum once they reach US soil.

Trump has consistently demonized the migrants as criminals and gang members, and warned that illegal drugs are also flowing across the border.

His announcement came on the same day Trump started the process of ratifying the new free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada -- updating NAFTA and now called the USMCA -- and a visit by Vice President Mike Pence to Ottawa to build momentum to get the treaty passed.

The USMCA, which was signed last November, will enter into force only upon ratification by all three nations.

Freeland acknowledged the US-Mexico border row, but said: "This is a bilateral issue."

"We are working closely. I am in close touch with my counterparts in Mexico and the US to be aware of their domestic processes. Our intention is, in so far as possible, to move in tandem with our partners," she said.