Trudeau Takes Trump At His Word On Reworking NAFTA

(Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau trusts President Donald Trump when it comes to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trudeau told NBC’s Tom Brokaw after watching a Broadway play about Canada’s role in responding to the 9-11 terrorist attack.

“I very much take him at his word when he talks about just making a few tweaks,” Trudeau told Brokaw in an interview that aired on Thursday’s “Today” show.

“Because that’s what we’re always happy to do.”

Trump has suggested any new NAFTA deal will only involve minor “tweaks,” but his pick for trade secretary told senators this week at his confirmation hearing that he will be taking be taking a tough look at Canadian tariffs on dairy and poultry.

“I hadn’t realized they have that high a tariff (on poultry). I agree it’s something we should look at,” trade nominee Robert Lighthizer said.

“When we sit down with Canada, we should raise that and a variety of other subjects which have been raised by various members of the committee in the course of this process.”

But Trudeau suggested he is building a strong relationship with Trump and notes that tweaking NAFTA is nothing new: there have been 12 amendments to the treaty in the last 20 years — although these changes did not require congressional approval. A full renegotiation will be subject to a vote in Congress and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has suggested that entire new chapters might be added to NAFTA.

Trudeau is also building a relationship with the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. The two sat together at Wednesday’s “Come From Away” performance and apparently got on well together when Trudeau visited Washington in February.

This “daughter diplomacy” worries the liberal and Liberal Party-supporting Toronto Star: “For Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift. Donald Trump has lavished praise upon chief executives who have let him take undeserved credit for their investments,” it editorialized Thursday.

Trudeau continues to walk a diplomatic tight-rope with Trump: he will tweet an invitation to the world’s refugees in what many saw as a repudiation of the president’s temporary travel ban and then suggest to Europeans that Trump “gets things done” and should be admired.

Brokaw tried to extract some criticism of Trump from Trudeau in their interview, but the Canadian prime minister wasn’t taking the bait.

“[Trump] made another effort to shut down or at least diminish the opportunity for immigrants to come here. Another judge has stepped in. You say, ‘Everyone is welcome here.’ What’s going to be the impact of that long-term, not just politically but economically and culturally?”

“We’ll agree to disagree on certain things. But I know, and I’ve always felt for Canada, that we recognize that diversity is a great source of strength.”

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