Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is bringing his self-proclaimed “sunny ways” with him to meet President Donald Trump today, even though the NAFTA horizon is very cloudy. Even while Trump tells Forbes magazine that he believes the trade agreement should be “terminated,” Trudeau continues his attempts to relate to the president, reiterating his belief that both leaders share a commitment to support the middle class.
On Tuesday night, Trudeau and wife Sophie were renewing their friendship with First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who also attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. With Ivanka looking on, journalists asked Trudeau about how he really got along with Trump. At the banquet later in the evening, the Trudeaus and Ivanka sat together.
It was a friendly audience for Trudeau. The master of ceremonies at one point asked those in attendance, “Who wants to move to Canada,” prompting an uproarious applause.
Trudeau continues to insist it is essential to put “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.”
Trudeau’s insistence that NAFTA include labor and gender equality protection while referring the importance of fighting climate change was dismissed by official opposition Conservatives Wednesday morning in Ottawa. At a news conference, Conservative Member of Parliament and Foreign Affairs Critic Erin O’Toole said Trudeau is complicating the NAFTA negotiating process because “in compressed timelines like this each party must get serious about their priorities from day one” and not inject new demands late in the process.
While Trudeau spins his optimism, his foreign affairs minister expressed stark pessimism in a weekend interview. Chrystia Freeland described the U.S. as “proudly protectionist” on CTV’s Question Period. On Tuesday at a panel discussion in Washington, she even waded into Trump’s ongoing feud with Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who said Trump needed handlers to do his job as president.
Freeland didn’t mention Trump’s name but said, “There are a lot of things that are concerning in the world right now. I think this is probably the most uncertain moment in international relations since the end of the Second World War.” Freeland said U.S. media inquired about Corker’s view of Trump.