Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he doesn’t believe U.S. President Donald Trump will pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Canada has multiple contingency plans ready if trade talks go south.
The latest round of talks wrapped in Montreal on Monday with the trade ministers from Canada, Mexico and the United States agreeing some progress was made but acknowledging there are still tough challenges ahead.
“Not only do we have a Plan B, we have a Plan C and D and E and F,” said Trudeau in an interview with Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio’s The House.
But the prime minister remained tight-lipped about what’s in those dossiers.
“What [Plan B] involves is standing up for Canadians and making sure that we move forward in the best possible way, and depending on what the Americans do, depending on what decisions the administration takes, we’ll make sure that we do the right things,” he said.
“I think one of the dangers is falling into hypotheticals and chasing rabbits down holes,” Trudeau said in the interview. “Just know that we have looked at a broad range of scenarios and have an approach that is going to continue to stand up for Canadian jobs while we diversify our markets.”
‘Our message has been consistent’
But Plan A is to stick with the charm offensive they’ve been pushing since day one.
“I don’t think the president is going to be cancelling it,” Trudeau said of the decades-old trade deal.
“I’ve been positive about NAFTA and NAFTA renegotiations from the very beginning. Our message has been consistent, to the president, to our partners and friends in the United States: that NAFTA has been good for American jobs. It’s been good for Canadian jobs.”
Trump didn’t mention NAFTA directly in his state of the union address Tuesday night, but spoke about ditching what he sees as unfair trade deals, pointing to his earlier decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“From now on we expect trading relationships to be fair and, very importantly, reciprocal.”
If the president had wandered the halls of Capitol Hill earlier that day, he might have overheard former prime minister Brian Mulroney giving an impassioned defence of NAFTA before the U.S. Senate committee on foreign relations.
Mulroney, a key player in the initial trilateral pact, hit on the key points being made by Canadian politicians, even those on opposite benches: free trade has economically benefited the U.S. and Canada, and is part of the foundation holding up one of the closest bilateral relationships.
“How do you explain today a 4.1 per cent unemployment rate in the United States, and a similar rate in Canada and growing prosperity in Mexico?” he said.
“What happened, of course, is that we got together and we built a $21-trillion market with millions and millions of new jobs in North America, in all places.”Play
“This round was a step forward, but we are progressing very slowly,” Lighthizer said.
The seventh round of negotiations will take place in Mexico from Feb. 26 to March 6.