WASHINGTON — President Reagan is "very anxious" that the United States and Canada continue trade negotiations, the White House said Monday as the two nations struggled to meet a Sunday deadline for a treaty that would wipe out most of their bilateral trade barriers.
The Canadians broke off talks last week, but high-ranking officials of the two governments were conferring Monday, reviving hopes that some agreement might be reached in time for an expedited review by Congress.
Reporting to Cabinet
"We've put a lot of work and effort into it in Canada over the last several months," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said. "The President is very anxious that those negotiations continue and that we be able to conduct and hopefully reach a conclusion."
Monday's eight hours of talks ended on an inconclusive note.
"We've been reviewing all the elements of the trade agreement with a view, of course, to seeing if there is a basis for negotiation," Canadian Trade Minister Pat Carney said after leaving the Treasury. She was scheduled to return to Canada late Monday night.
"We'll be reporting to Cabinet tomorrow, to the Prime Minister, and at that time we'll determine the next step," she told reporters outside the Treasury.
From the U.S. side, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III and Special Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter said: "We have had a thorough discussion of all the elements involved in the negotiations. We are hopeful that this will provide a basis for the negotiations to resume, and the U.S. remains prepared to resume negotiations at any time."
However, there was no indication yet of a breakthrough on the disputes that led to the Canadian withdrawal last week after 16 months of talks on the treaty, which is designed to boost trade between the two countries.
Subsidies a Concern
The Canadians have insisted that a binding arbitration system be established to resolve any disputes on at least some key goods traded between the countries. U.S. officials have rejected this approach as unacceptable because it would allow circumvention of U.S. trade laws.
"We still need a way to protect ourselves from unfairly traded imports," said a U.S. official. U.S. officials have cited concerns about subsidies for some Canadian goods that they say would allow them to be sold at artificially low prices, harming U.S. competitors.
The United States also wants Canada to ease its restrictions on investments in that nation by foreign companies, notably U.S. firms in the energy business.
In the effort to revive the negotiations, several top Canadian officials met here Monday with Baker and Yeutter.
Canada was represented by Finance Minister Michael Wilson, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's chief of staff Derek Burney, Trade Minister Pat Carney and ambassador Allan Gotlieb. U.S. officials said they are interested in further meetings before the Sunday deadline that was cited in the U.S. law that authorized the negotiations. However, the Canadians seemed pessimistic about the likelihood of an agreement.
Simon Riesman, the chief Canadian negotiator, did not attend Monday's meeting, which was an effort to see if the talks should be restarted. Riesman said Sunday: "I have seen nothing in the suggestions put forward . . . by the United States to change in any significant way the impasse and difficulties that we encountered last week. . . . I don't have a great deal of hope that the Americans are going to get some sense and some reason."
The two countries have the world's richest trade link. The United States sold $55.6 billion worth of goods to Canada last year and imported $68.9 billion in Canadian merchandise.
Robert A. Rosenblatt reported from Washington and Kenneth Freed from Toronto. Staff writer Douglas Jehl in Washington contributed to this story.