Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that he would do what was best for his country when it comes to NAFTA renegotiation, even if it means walking away from it.
Trudeau’s comments come a few days after President Donald Trump emphasized the need for fair trade deals during his State of the Union address Tuesday. Trump did not mention NAFTA by name, nor did he repeat his previous threats to withdraw. But tensions between the two large trading partners have remained high throughout Trump’s first year in office.
“We aren’t going to take any old deal,” Trudeau said at a town hall in Nanaimo, British Columbia, according to a report from Bloomberg News. “Canada is willing to walk away from NAFTA if the United States proposes a bad deal. We won’t be pushed around.”
The sixth round of NAFTA discussion ended Monday and was said to be slowly progressing. But all three countries’ top officials indicated that they were seeing progress emerging. There were highlights to the meeting, with food-safety chapters, digital trade, and telecommunications nearly done.
Despite his forceful promise, Trudeau said he still believed that NAFTA is beneficial to all the countries involved.
“Canceling it would be extremely harmful and disruptive to people in the United States,” Trudeau said. “We are going to keep negotiating in good faith,” he added. “We are confident we are going to be able to get to the right deal for Canada, not just any deal.”
The seventh round of NAFTA talks will take place in Mexico City starting Feb. 26
But Trudeau also made it clear that President Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the North American free trade pact would cause economic suffering in the United States in a decision that would also be terrible politics.
Millions of American workers would be harmed and their lives disrupted in the short term through a thickening of the border and greater uncertainty, even if Canada and the United States can finalize a deal down the road, he said.
“Anything that provides a level of uncertainty like a sunset clause for example to businesses is something we have grave reservations about.”
Speaking to a group of Midwest students and officials Wednesday — some of whom are skeptical that trade would help them — Trudeau said that ending free trade between Canada and the United States would hurt the wealthy, but also harm future opportunities for the U.S. middle class.
The comments from Trudeau came as American trade representative Robert Lighthizer said frustration with Canada could lead to finishing NAFTA negotiations with Mexico first, then doing a separate negotiation with Canada later, according to Congressman Ron Kind.
Trudeau is visiting the U.S. for the ninth time since President Trump took office – while there, he will also meet with executives from Silicon Valley, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.