OTTAWA -- When it comes to defending Canada's supply management system from the trade demands of the Trump White House, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay is leaving the barn door open a crack.

The U.S. administration has made it clear it wants Canada's system for controlling the price and supplies of dairy, eggs and chicken abolished -- something MacAulay insists will not happen.

But when asked Wednesday whether there's any room to negotiate on supply management, MacAulay was less unequivocal.

"Well, of course, what needs to happen is with any trade deal you have to find out exactly what is on the table, what the approach is," said MacAulay.

"I'm not going to start negotiating NAFTA here in the public with the press, that would not be my role."

When NAFTA was negotiated 24 years ago, the trade deal benefited both Canada and the U.S.. and "that's what we will see," MacAulay said.

When pressed about what realistic changes Canada would be willing to consider, MacAulay would only repeat his insistence that the government would defend supply management.

"We are the government that will defend supply management. We have indicated that quite clearly. We're fully united."

MacAulay also skirted questions about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent comments in a U.S. television interview that Canada has "flexibility" on dairy.

"I am not at the table, but what you have to do is be careful. The truth is, there's negotiations taking place. There's a lot of things on the table," he said.

"What we want to do, what we have indicated quite clearly and the prime minister has indicated quite clearly, (is that) the only NAFTA deal that we will sign is a deal that's good for Canada."

He also played down the ongoing trade tensions between Canada and the U.S., saying there will always be "little problems" between countries.