President Donald Trump greeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau like an old friend Wednesday afternoon as the two shook hands and embraced for a White House photo op.
Trudeau was in town to sell the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to a president who has repeatedly said he wants the trade deal “terminated” or radically redesigned.
But Trudeau believes he can close the deal with Trump. Before the two retreated for a private meeting, the president hinted that if NAFTA fails he would consider a bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Canada.
When Trudeau emerged from the meeting for a news conference at the Canadian Embassy, he announced, “The president and I reiterated our commitment to working together in good faith to give this deal a much needed upgrade.”
He told reporters: “What the president wants is what I want: to make sure there are good jobs for our citizens and to ensure prosperity for our communities.”
Trudeau is continuing to insist that NAFTA should reflect a “modernization that acknowledges the importance of gender, the environment and indigenous and labor rights.”
When challenged that he is being overly optimistic in his assessment of a successful renegotiation, Trudeau responded, “My optimism towards NAFTA, towards a renegotiation, isn’t based on reading political tea leaves. My optimism is based on the fact that I know how good NAFTA has been for millions of citizens of Canada and the United States.
”I know there are opportunities to significantly improve this trade deal in ways that will benefit citizens right across the United States and Canada as well…I truly believe the president is focused on creating benefits for his citizens — the middle class — that way we are and that positive trade deals are a very powerful lever for getting that done.”
Trudeau was asked about his discussion with Trump on defense issues. He said, “Canada is proud that our soldiers have been active and present in very challenging places around the world…we will continue to work together on a broad range of security issues.”