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Sunday 22 September 2019

Donald Trump non-committal as trade talks with Canada start

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump pose for a photo at the White House (Carolyn Kaster/AP/PA)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump pose for a photo at the White House (Carolyn Kaster/AP/PA)

President Donald Trump remained non-committal about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) on Wednesday as he welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the White House.

Mr Trudeau joined Mr Trump in the Oval Office at the start of a new round of talks over the agreement, which the US president has threatened to withdraw from if he cannot negotiate a better settlement with Canada and Mexico.

Mr Trump said: "We're negotiating a Nafta deal.

"It's time after all of these years and we'll see what happens. It's possible we won't be able to make a deal and it's possible that we will.

"We have to protect our workers and, in all fairness, the prime minister wants to protect Canada and his people also.

"So, we'll see what happens with Nafta. It has to be fair to both countries."

Mr Trudeau, in his brief remarks to reporters, spoke of the ties that bind the two neighbours and major trading partners.

"We have an incredibly close relationship. Two countries that are interwoven in our economies and our cultures and our peoples," Mr Trudeau said.

"We have a good partnership ... and that's why having an ongoing constructive relationship between the president and the prime minister is really important."

The trade negotiations this week in Washington have gotten off to a rocky start, with the US Chamber of Commerce warning the Trump administration might be sabotaging the talks with unrealistic proposals.

Mr Trudeau, making his second visit to the White House this year, was also expected to raise the Trump administration's recent decision to hit Canadian manufacturer Bombardier with punishing tariffs on its C Series airliner.

US-based Boeing alleges that Bombardier gets unfair subsidies from the Canadian and British governments.

Mr Trump, who made trade a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign, has repeatedly criticised Canada, alleging it unfairly blocks US dairy products and subsidises its softwood lumber industry.

Mr Trudeau is scheduled to visit Mexico on Thursday to hold additional discussions on Nafta.


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