Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touted the benefits of his “progressive trade” agenda as he accepted the global citizenship award from the Atlantic Council in New York City Tuesday.
Trudeau boarded an aircraft carrier on the Hudson River to attend the formal event where Jordan’s Queen Rania presented him with his award. The Liberal prime minister was this year’s winner because of his efforts to settle Syrian refugees in Canada — though internal government reports have warned that Trudeau’s insistence on meeting target numbers of refugees has compromised security vetting procedures.
Trudeau, who is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, wasted no time in telling the audience how the current negotiations for a new North America Free Trade Agreement must consider equality provisions for workers, women and “indigenous peoples.”
Progressive trade goes beyond typical trade policy and requires social protections for women, indigenous peoples and middle class workers.
Trudeau said anyone who objects to him inserting his social agenda into trade talks is “confused” and suggested that to ignore these demands could result in NAFTA being abandoned. “It’s as though they expect us to do trade exactly the same way it was done by our parents, a quarter of a century ago.”
Trudeau insisted he would not re-negotiate NAFTA that way: “In short, progressive trade is not a frill. In addition to being the right thing to do, it is a practical necessity, without which popular support for a growth agenda cannot be maintained.”
But Trudeau’s agenda is not all rhetoric. Sources have told the Canadian Press that he intends to target pro-business legislation in the U.S. that includes right-to-work laws that have limited the powers of unions to force their members to strike.
Trudeau’s speech to the U.N. on Thursday is expected to emphasize equality and include a thinly-veiled criticism of President Donald Trump’s less than robust enthusiasm for the international body. Trudeau’s speech to the general assembly in 2016 — prior to Trump’s election — was highly critical of Trump’s rhetoric as the front-running Republican presidential candidate. Trudeau did not mention Trump by name and has since enjoyed what many political pundits in Canada deem a surprisingly friendly relationship with the president.