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op US diplomat, Canada FM discuss Venezuela, NAFTA in first contact after G7 row

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken to his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland in a telephone conversation in the duo’s first encounter after tensions flared between President Donald Trump and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the G7 summit near Montreal.

Pompeo and Freeland discussed during the Saturday phone call the cooperation between the two neighbors on the persisting political and economic crisis in Venezuela, as well as their commitments to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the State Department said in a statement released to the press.

The two further discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the US, Canada and Mexico are struggling to renegotiate for several months since Trump has repeatedly dismissed it as unfavorable to the American side and threatening to abandon the trilateral accord with its two neighbors.

The development came as the Canadian prime minister cancelled a planned visit to Washington to finalize a new deal last month after US Vice President Mike Pence demanded that any agreement expire after five years.

Pompeo brushed off concerns last Monday that the tensions at the G7 summit would upset Washington’s ability to work with key allies, underlining that “there are always irritants in relationships.”

“I’m unconcerned about our capacity to continue to do what we need to do,” said the top US diplomat.

The conversation between Pompeo and Freeland also came a week after Trump quarreled with allied leaders at the G7 summit over his administration’s decision to impose tough tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Those tariffs were widely condemned by some of the United States’s closest allies, prompting Trump to issue a seeming ultimatum to the group of industrialized nations: Reduce trade barriers on the U.S. or risk losing access to the world’s largest economy.

Trudeau rejected the American tariffs during a press conference hours after Trump’s early departure from the G7 summit to travel to Singapore, insisting that Canada would “not be bullied” by Washington. Trump then reacted by blasting Trudeau as “weak” and “dishonest,” and declaring that Washington would not endorse a joint communique with the other G-7 leaders, as is customary.

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