PM Trudeau applying pressure on U.S. in NAFTA talks, says Wilbur Ross

DAVOS, Switzerland — U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday he believes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his speech at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday to apply pressure on the United States in the NAFTA renegotiation.

Trudeau said Canada and the 10 remaining members of the TPP had revised their trade pact in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal and was “working very hard” to convince President Donald Trump about the merits of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Ross, who arrived at the WEF in Davos on Wednesday, told reporters Trudeau’s speech was designed “to put a little pressure on the U.S. in the NAFTA talks.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added the Trump administration believes in “bilateral trading agreements” but wants to make sure “U.S. opportunities are equal to other people’s opportunities in the U.S.”

Trudeau’s announcement about the new TPP came as the NAFTA partners gathered in Montreal for a week of negotiations.

There are concerns the efforts in Montreal could be affected by the new TPP, but the chief negotiators for Canada and Mexico brushed aside that notion Tuesday.

“It’s pretty much separate tracks,” Canada’s lead negotiator, Steve Verheul, told The Canadian Press in Montreal.

Trudeau participated in a roundtable discussion in Davos later on Wednesday with several U.S. business leaders.

The session involved several heavy hitters, including the CEOs of Dow Chemical, UPS, Cargill, Qualcomm Inc., Tyson Foods and the New York Stock Exchange.

When he emerged from the meeting, Trudeau said the discussion touched on the jobs in Canada and the United States that rely on NAFTA.

“We talked a lot about ensuring that citizens and workers and families on both sides of the border understand the integrated supply chains, the trade back and forth between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, has been tremendously beneficial and we’re going to keep working on it,” he said.

Trudeau was also scheduled to hold bilateral business meetings Wednesday with the heads of Royal Dutch Shell, Microsoft and Ericsson. He also has one bilateral meeting with a political leader — Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

Before leave Switzerland on Thursday, Trudeau is scheduled to attend a public session on the empowerment of girls and women and be joined by Pakistani activist and honorary Canadian citizen Malala Yousafzai.

Trudeau did meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the WEF on Wednesday, but the Canadian media travelling with the prime minister did not receive a customary notification in advance.

The Prime Minister’s Office later apologized for issuing a late notice and promised to provide a summary of what it called a “last-minute pull-aside” meeting between the two men.

A later statement from the PMO said the two men discussed the regional security situation in the Middle East, including the status of the peace process. They also talked about Iran’s position within the region.

The Trudeau-Netanyahu chat comes weeks after the Canadian government chose to abstain from voting on a resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate the American embassy.

Trump is scheduled to speak in Davos on Friday after Trudeau returns home.

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