The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE -

U. S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has wel­comed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to the White House by hint­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of a free trade deal di­rectly with Amer­ica’s north­ern neigh­bour, should on­go­ing NAFTA talks col­lapse.

But the U.S. pres­i­dent also said it’s too early to give up on ef­forts to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada 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.”

Trump was speak­ing from the Oval Of­fice at the out­set of Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing with Trudeau, whose visit co­in­cides with the start of a fourth round of NAFTA talks in nearby Alexandria, Va.

It’s no se­cret that the pres­i­dent is not a fan of NAFTA, but Wed­nes­day’s re­marks sug­gest he’s open to the pos­si­bil­ity of a bi­lat­eral trade deal with Canada.

“We’ll see what hap­pens, we have a tough ne­go­ti­a­tion,” he said.

Trudeau, mean­while, was far less bear­ish on the fate of NAFTA, say­ing the economies of the two coun­tries have long been closely in­ter­twined.

“We have a good part­ner­ship and there’s al­ways ways to im­prove it, al­ways is­sues we need to talk through,” he said.

The prime min­is­ter’s ar­rival in Wash­ing­ton comes amid early signs of trou­ble in the talks, with big busi­ness groups now 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 and the con­tentious sub­ject of agri­cul­ture on Satur­day.

Trudeau told For­tune mag­a­zine’s Most Pow­er­ful Women gala on Tues­day night he sees room to not only mod­ern­ize the deal, but to make it more pro­gres­sive as well.

“Putting pro­gres­sive el­e­ments into trade deals — labour pro­tec­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions — ac­tu­ally helps us make the case for trade and re­as­sure peo­ple that the ben­e­fits of trade will be dis­trib­uted more fairly and not just to the small num­ber of peo­ple who’ve al­ways ben­e­fited from it in the past,” he said.

He re­turned to those themes Wed­nes­day dur­ing an ear­lier round­table dis­cus­sion with two or­ga­ni­za­tions de­voted to em­pow­er­ing women and girls around the world. Par­tic­i­pants in­cluded se­nior fe­male ex­ec­u­tives with Google and Twit­ter, or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing the Nike Foun­da­tion, Mckin­sey and Jpmor­gan Chase and Ari­anna Huff­in­g­ton, founder of the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Trudeau noted the di­verse back­grounds and strengths in the group, but said they too often work in iso­la­tion.

“We don’t nec­es­sar­ily con­vene a broad enough group to reach out be­yond where we can touch our­selves and be­ing able to break down these si­los and pull peo­ple to­gether is re­ally im­por­tant,” he said.

“How we em­power women and girls around the world is go­ing to make the defin­ing dif­fer­ence in whether we make it as a 21st cen­tury species or not.”


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump points to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau as he wel­comes him to the White House Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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