Canada could ratify new NAFTA even if U.S. tariffs stay put: Trudeau

In an interview with CNN, Trudeau says Canada still wants the tariffs lifted before the new version of NAFTA goes into effect.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in Montreal on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. PETER MCCABE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t ruling out the possibility that Canada will ratify its new North American trade deal with the United States and Mexico even if U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum exports are still in place.

In an interview with CNN, portions of which are airing as U.S. voters cast ballots in pivotal midterm elections, Trudeau says Canada still wants the tariffs lifted before the new version of NAFTA goes into effect.

But when asked if he trusts U.S. President Donald Trump to honour the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trudeau says his father taught him to trust Canadians.

He says it was Pierre Trudeau’s way of telling him that he didn’t have to scare or pander to voters in Canada, since they are capable of making intelligent, rational choices.

Pressed on the question of whether he trusts Trump, Trudeau says he respects the fact that every leader has a different approach to the job of defending their country’s interests.

Trump is using national security grounds to justify tariffs of 10 per cent on aluminum produced outside the U.S. and 25 per cent on steel, and has not lifted his threat to impose a similar 25 per cent tariff on autos.

“What my father taught me was to trust Canadians,” Trudeau said when asked whether the elder Trudeau’s advice to “trust people” would apply to the U.S. president.

“It was a way of looking at the electorate as saying you don’t have to dumb it down for them, you don’t have to scare them into this or that — you can actually treat people like intelligent, rational actors and they will rise to the occasion.”

Related: U.S. congressman issues dire warning to Canada’s NAFTA team: time is running out

Related: B.C. farmers worry NAFTA deal could affect livelihoods

Trudeau was pressed on whether he trusts Trump to stand by the terms of the USMCA.

“Every leader has the job of sticking up for their own country, and they will do it in their own ways,” he said.

“I respect the fact that people have different approaches to it. My approach is to trust Canadians and deal in a way that is direct with other leaders.”

The Canadian Press

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