PM: ‘Canada ready for any­thing’

Trudeau be­lieves re­new­ing NAFTA best op­tion for all three coun­tries

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - Stephanie le­vitz

WASHINGTON — For the first time, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is ac­knowl­edg­ing that the North amer­i­can Free Trade agree­ment could be in trou­ble.

Trudeau wrapped up his visit to Washington on Wednesday by say­ing that he con­tin­ues to be­lieve that rene­go­ti­at­ing and re­new­ing NAFTA is the best op­tion for all three coun­tries. how­ever, he sug­gested — re­peat­edly — that the fed­eral lib­eral gov­ern­ment is brac­ing for the worst.

“it is very im­por­tant and very pos­si­ble to get a win-win-win ... out of these ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence on the roof of the cana­dian em­bassy.

“so say­ing, i think it’s been clear that cir­cum­stances are of­ten chal­leng­ing, and we have to be ready for any­thing — and we are.

“We’re tak­ing this very se­ri­ously and we’re tak­ing the im­por­tance of stand­ing up for cana­dian jobs and cana­dian eco­nomic growth very se­ri­ously, and that goes (for) ev­ery eco­nomic en­gage­ment we have with the amer­i­cans.”

dur­ing his ear­lier visit to the White house, Trudeau lis­tened in­tently as u.s. Pres­i­dent don­ald Trump hinted at the pos­si­bil­ity of a free trade deal di­rectly with canada, should the on­go­ing talks col­lapse.

but the u.s. pres­i­dent also said it’s too early to give up on the ne­go­ti­a­tions, which re­sumed Wednesday in alexan­dria, Va., with ne­go­tia­tors from canada, the u.s. and Mex­ico.

“it’s pos­si­ble we won’t be able to reach a deal with one or the other,” Trump said, a poker-faced Trudeau seated at his side. “in the mean­time, we’ll make a deal with one, but i think we have a chance to do some­thing very cre­ative that’s good for canada, Mex­ico and the united states.”

it’s no se­cret that the pres­i­dent is not a fan of NAFTA, but Wednesday’s re­marks sug­gested he’s open to the pos­si­bil­ity of a bi­lat­eral trade deal with canada. “We’ll see what hap­pens, we have a tough ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

it wasn’t clear whether the change in the prime min­is­ter’s NAFTA mes­sage was a di­rect re­sult of his meet­ing with the u.s. pres­i­dent, some­one he ac­knowl­edged “makes de­ci­sions that sur­prise peo­ple some­times.” but re­peat­ing the “ready for any­thing” sen­ti­ment mul­ti­ple times sug­gests a con­scious de­ci­sion to ac­knowl­edge that the out­come of the talks may not go canada’s way.

“i con­tinue to be­lieve in NAFTA; i con­tinue to be­lieve that as a con­ti­nent work­ing to­gether in com­ple­men­tary ways is bet­ter for our cit­i­zens and bet­ter for eco­nomic growth, and al­lows us to com­pete on a stronger foot­ing with the global econ­omy,” Trudeau said.

“so say­ing, we are ready for any­thing and we will con­tinue to work dili­gently to pro­tect cana­dian in­ter­ests, to stand up for jobs, and look for op­por­tu­ni­ties for cana­dian busi­ness and cit­i­zens of all of our friends and neigh­bour coun­tries to do well.”

in­deed, there have been early but un­mis­tak­able signs of trou­ble in the talks, with big busi­ness groups ex­press­ing fear the quar­ter-cen­tury-old deal could dis­ap­pear.

ear­lier Wednesday, Trudeau held dis­cus­sions with the house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ in­flu­en­tial Ways and Means com­mit­tee, one of two bod­ies of u.s. law­mak­ers that are help­ing ne­go­tia­tors put for­ward the u.s. po­si­tions on trade.

he joined the com­mit­tee to warm ap­plause and ex­pres­sions of op­ti­mism about the deal from both the com­mit­tee’s repub­li­can chair and the rank­ing democrat mem­ber.

The com­mit­tee is ded­i­cated to mak­ing sure the ne­go­ti­a­tions are suc­cess­ful, said rep. Kevin brady, the com­mit­tee chair, who asked for Trudeau’s help in keep­ing an open mind.

“We all want this agree­ment to be a model for fu­ture trade deals,” brady said.

The lat­est round of NAFTA talks kicked off with a dis­cus­sion of gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment, al­ready a thorny sub­ject — u.s. ne­go­tia­tors sug­gested dur­ing the last round in Ottawa that they want to limit cana­dian and Mex­i­can ac­cess to u.s. projects.

From there, dis­cus­sions are sched­uled to move onto de­vel­op­ing reme­dies for trade dis­putes, as well as the con­tentious is­sue of agri­cul­ture.

Sean KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau as he wel­comes him to the White House on Wednesday.

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