PM defends negotiators after Trump slams Canada
OTTAWA – In his first public comments since U.S. President Donald Trump's fiery press conference which cast serious doubt on the fate of NAFTA, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the Canadian negotiators and said a deal is still possible.
"The Americans are finding that the negotiations are tough, because Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be, but a good and fair deal is still very possible," Trudeau said, speaking with reporters on his way into a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill.
In Wednesday evening’s remarks, Trump threatened to slap new taxes on Canada’s auto industry and delivered a barrage of disparaging comments about Canada. Trump said he was very unhappy with "the negotiations and negotiating style of Canada," and that he turned down a recent one-on-one with Trudeau because Canadian tariffs are too high.
In response, Trudeau’s office released a statement saying that no meeting was requested.
Canadian negotiators are still meeting behind closed doors with American counterparts in hopes of hammering out an agreement. The two sides have reportedly made progress in recent weeks, but have been unable to settle a few key issues. The U.S. and Mexico have already reached a consensus following bilateral negotiations.
Trump later suggested that there’s still “a good chance still” that a deal could happen, but he doesn’t plan to accept “anything near” what Canadian negotiators have proposed.
During his wide-spanning press conference on Wednesday, Trump accused Canada of treating the U.S. “very badly” and said: “We don’t like their representative very much.”
It’s unclear exactly which representative Trump was referring to. Canada is represented by a team of NAFTA negotiators led by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft said Wednesday evening that she’d heard Trump’s comments about Canada’s NAFTA representative. Craft insisted there is nothing but respect between U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Freeland at the negotiating table.
Fellow female ministers spoke in defence of Freeland on their way in to Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
"Minister Freeland is doing an outstanding job at a very difficult task on behalf of all Canadians," said Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott.
In New York, Freeland declined to comment when asked by CTV News about Trump's comments.