Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back at Trump Administration attempts to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday. Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, Trudeau said that “no deal” might be more preferable to Canada than a deal that is revised along the lines that the Trump Administration proposes.
“We will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s comments came in the course of a podcast, “The Axe Files,” produced by the University of Chicago and CNN. Trudeau said that Canada valued trade with the United States, but would not accept a one-sided deal.
“When Canadians see me engaging constructively, collaboratively -- but firmly -- at the negotiating table on NAFTA, saying, 'Look we know there are ways to modernize and improve NAFTA in ways that will create a win-win-win when we include Mexico,' there is a path absolutely for that. But we are not going to take a win-loss just for the sake of getting a deal,” Trudeau said.
He added, “We know we can work towards a good deal. But we also know that we will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal. And being firm on that is, I think, what Canadians expect of me.”
During the campaign, President Trump called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of this country” even though many economists say the trade pact with Mexico and Canada has benefitted all three countries.
Canada and Mexico are able to drive a hard bargain at the NAFTA negotiations because they have other options. Both countries recently signed onto the new Trans Pacific Trade pact that will not include the United States. If the three nations cannot agree to continue NAFTA, Mexico and Canada will have free trade access to numerous new markets around the Pacific rim. Mexico already has 10 free trade agreements with 45 countries.
Still, Trudeau emphasized that continuing the deal would be beneficial to both countries. “Frankly, there is no country in the world that has a greater vested interest in the United States being successful than Canada," he said. "You know, when you sneeze, we catch a cold. I mean, we're so interlinked that absolutely we want to make sure it's a good deal for the United States, because that's part of making a good deal for Canada.”
Trudeau also addressed his recent controversial correction of an audience member who used the word “mankind.” In a clip that has been widely mocked, Trudeau said that “peoplekind” was the appropriate gender-neutral phraseology. Fox News reports that the prime minister called the comment “a dumb joke.”