Trump to 'tweak' trade ties with Canada, calls them very outstanding

Mr Trump greeting Mr Trudeau as the Canadian Prime Minister arrived at the White House on Monday. At a joint news conference, Mr Trump said the US and Canada were stronger when they joined forces in matters of international commerce.
Mr Trump greeting Mr Trudeau as the Canadian Prime Minister arrived at the White House on Monday. At a joint news conference, Mr Trump said the US and Canada were stronger when they joined forces in matters of international commerce.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump said on Monday that the United States would be "tweaking" its trade relationship with Canada, stopping short of calling for a major realignment in a development likely to please visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr Trump had pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) linking the economies of the US, Mexico and Canada to make the terms more favourable to Americans.

At a joint news conference with Mr Trudeau after White House talks, Mr Trump said that his biggest concern with Nafta was the US trade relationship with Mexico, which he has frequently accused of stealing American jobs.

"We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We will be tweaking it," Mr Trump said.

"It is a much less severe situation than what is taking place on the southern border."

Mr Trump said the US and Canada were stronger when they joined forces in matters of international commerce, and that both countries have benefited from having more jobs and trade in North America.

"We should coordinate closely - and we will coordinate closely - to protect jobs in our hemisphere and keep wealth on our continent, and to keep everyone safe," the US President added.

Mr Trudeau carefully steered around questions about the Canadian trade relationship with the US in what was his first meeting with the new US leader.

He said he expected each country to always remain the other's most essential partner.

"There have been times where we have differed in our approaches, and that has always been done firmly and respectfully. The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves," Mr Trudeau said.

Mr Trump's vow to renegotiate Nafta has unnerved Canadian officials, even though he has singled out Mexico in his criticism of the free trade deal. Canada sends 75 per cent of its exports to the US.

Analysts said Mr Trudeau, who has strong incentives to build a relationship with Mr Trump given rising anti-trade sentiment, is bound to be happy with the first meeting.

"I thought it was a huge, huge win. The worst-case scenario is, we wind up with an Australia moment, when a relationship that should be on solid ground takes a bad turn," said Mr Carlo Dade, director of the Centre for Trade and Investment Policy at the Canada West Foundation.

"Instead, we actually got an endorsement of North American jobs, of Canada-US jobs, working together, no 'America First'- just the opposite," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Trump to 'tweak' trade ties with Canada, calls them very outstanding'. Print Edition | Subscribe