Canada's envoy to the United States was asked for his opinion today — on a scale of one to 10 — whether Ottawa and Washington are likely to strike a new trade deal by a Sunday deadline.
David MacNaughton, who has been involved in the high-level trade talks, estimates the likelihood is a "five."
The ambassador made the comment at a Toronto event hosted by Politico, during which he fielded numerous questions about the state of the negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
MacNaughton says reaching a deal is very much a question of whether or not the U.S. wants to have a agreement.
He says the process has been challenging and both sides know each other's positions on all of the major sticking points.
MacNaughton says Canada is anxious to strike an agreement to bring some certainty to the investment climate and to open the door for Ottawa to start working more closely with the Americans on some of the bigger issues that confront both countries.
But he says Ottawa won't sign a deal that lacks a robust dispute settlement mechanism, nor will it join an agreement if it means Canada will still be subjected to U.S. tariffs under the guise of national security.
'WE WILL KEEP WORKING'
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said he would not be rushed into renewing NAFTA and indicated it was possible the three member nations might fail to conclude a new pact.
The top U.S. negotiator on Tuesday complained Canada was not making enough concessions in bilateral talks to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement and said time was running out before Washington proceeded with a Mexico-only deal.
"We will keep working as long as it takes to get to the right deal for Canada," Trudeau told reporters when asked about the increasing U.S. pressure to wrap up the talks.
Asked about the challenges posed by a U.S. threat of auto tariffs, Trudeau said Canada would need to feel confident "about the path forward as we move forward -- if we do -- on a NAFTA 2.0."
Trudeau also said the tariffs that Trump imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum in late May would have to be scrapped before Canada felt comfortable signing a new NAFTA.
The Trump administration has said the text of an agreement between the three nations is needed by Sunday to allow the current Mexican government to sign it before it leaves office at the end of November.
The Canadian Press and reuters contributed to this report.