President Donald Trump reacts before speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, in Phoenix, Ariz., on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Trump has threatened to blow up NAFTA less than one week into the renegotiation of the trade agreement, providing an early indication that the upcoming talks might occur under a cloud of menace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Alex Brandon

Canada, Mexico shrug off Trump threat to blow up NAFTA

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is playing down the latest threat from President Donald Trump that the North American Free Trade Agreement is a bad deal from which the U.S. will likely exit.

Trump’s latest threat to “terminate” NAFTA came during a campaign-style speech at a rally in Arizona on Tuesday night, when he told the crowd he didn’t think a new deal on NAFTA good enough for the United States was possible.

It is not the first time he has made such a threat, but it is the first time since Canada, the U.S. and Mexico sat down to start renegotiating the 24-year-old trade agreement.

Trudeau’s response Wednesday afternoon was to stay the course.

“We’re going to stay focused on what we’ve always known and what we’ve always said, that the North American Free Trade Agreement has resulted in millions of good jobs on both sides of the Canada-US border and is of benefit to both Canadians and Americans,” he said during a news conference in Montreal.

“There are opportunities we have to improve and update the North American Free Trade Agreement and we’re negotiating in good faith and working hard to do just that, but we’re going to stay focused on the hard work we have ahead of us at the negotiating table and that’s how we’ve approached this from the very beginning and I don’t see anything changing in that.”

Canada’s pro-NAFTA offensive in the United States has included intense lobbying to both state and congressional representatives with data showing nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was unavailable to comment Wednesday, but she as good as predicted Trump would threaten to bail on NAFTA during her appearance before a House of Commons committee last week when she said there likely would be “dramatic moments ahead.”

A Foreign Affairs official speaking on background said the only thing unexpected about Trump’s NAFTA termination threat was that it came so quickly after renegotiations started.

“We knew it was very likely the president would play this card,” he said. “We’re not going to get rattled by this.”

He said this was why the Canadian government has been working at developing relationships with others in the NAFTA circle in the United States.

Canadian international trade expert Peter Clark said that is exactly the response necessary here.

“You can’t ignore Trump, he’s a real wild card,” said Clark, president of the Ottawa firm Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates.

“But if he threatens something and you overreact, he is going to come back and double down on it. You can’t give it legs.”

Mexico’s foreign minister also shrugged off the Trump tirade as par for the course, initially tweeting that Mexico would remain at the table, calm and firm in Mexico’s national interest.

Wednesday he told Mexican television Trump was “negotiating in his own particular style.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement released by his office that “President Trump has been clear from the very beginning that if the NAFTA renegotiation is unsuccessful, he will withdraw from the agreement.”

However at a town hall meeting at AT&T’s Dallas headquarters on Wednesday, Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House ways and means committee, called Trump’s rhetoric “red hot” and acknowledged he’d like to see Trump take a “different approach in tone”

But he also suggested the people at the negotiating table are not working off Trump’s’s whims.

“The actions by his trade team are measured” he said. “They are following the trade objectives Congress gave them.”

Back in Canada, Randy Hoback, the Conservative critic for Canada-U.S. relations, said Trump’s comments might be more bluff than belief, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken as a warning.

“It really puts the screws to everyone at the table to get something done quickly,” said Hoback.

He said he hopes Canada can get a new deal done, but the government has to prepare for the possibility of NAFTA being torn up.

“We need to prepare for what we would do if NAFTA isn’t there,” said Hoback.

NDP international trade critic Tracy Ramsey also said the Liberals need to get some reassurances from the Americans they are bargaining in good faith, but be prepared for things to go off the rails.

“What are our contingencies here,” she said. “Do we look at bilaterals with the U.S. and Mexico? This is something the Liberals have to give direction about.”

Just Posted

Relatives of murdered family critical of killers’ sentences

Open letter to sentencing judge criticizes ruling allowing killers to apply for parole in 25 years

City rolling out Green Carts

Green Carts used for organics, such as yard waste, food scraps and pet waste

New teaching standards applauded

New code of standards affecting teachers, principals and superintendents to kick in Sept. 1, 2019

UPDATED: Agriculture minister speaks to cattle producers

2018 Alberta Beef Industry Conference underway in Red Deer

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Twenty years later, figure skating’s most famous backflip remains amazing (and illegal)

Figure skating involves spins, jumps, twizzles and a whole host of other… Continue reading

You don’t need to chop like a TV chef to get the job done

Standing in line at the emergency room, makeshift bandage around my finger,… Continue reading

Seychelles swaps debt for groundbreaking marine protection

CURIEUSE ISLAND, Seychelles — With deep blue waters, white sand beaches and… Continue reading

Trump endorses raising minimum age to 21 for more weapons

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump endorsed stricter gun-control measures Thursday, including raising… Continue reading

Red Deer blood clinic in need of 600 donors

Aunt encourages Central Albertans to donate blood after losing nephew

Court considers banning diesel cars in German cities

BERLIN — A German court began considering Thursday whether authorities should ban… Continue reading

US women beat Canada in Olympic hockey; Gisin tops Shiffrin

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — A tense shootout, a dazzling deke and… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month