Trump ally re-assures Canadians: ‘He really truly believes in having free trade’

A key ally of Donald Trump says Canadians should understand the U.S. president believes in free trade, and shouldn’t read too much into what they hear.

Maine Governor Paul LePage, in Charlottetown for a meeting of Eastern Canadian premiers and New England governors, says he’s spoken to Trump on the subject, and the president “truly believes in having free trade.”

Trump again suggested Sunday that the North American Free Trade Agreement should be terminated, tweeting that both Canada and Mexico are being “very difficult.”

But the Republican governor says Trump is more worried about Mexico than Canada.

LePage has also proposed that leaders gathered in Charlottetown join together on another trade irritant: softwood lumber. LePage wants them to write a letter supporting exemptions on duties for softwood lumber from Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

LePage says the pressure for the duties is coming from the U.S. lumber coalition.

He says the U.S. industry is being irresponsible and if new, hefty duties remain in place there will be collateral damage to economies on both sides of the border.

In June, the U.S. Department of Commerce hit Canada with an additional 6.87 per cent in preliminary average anti-dumping tariffs, leaving the industry facing average duties of about 27 per cent.

The decision exempts the other three Atlantic provinces, but New Brunswick — exempt from such tariffs in the past — is not.

LePage says the issue needs to be resolved quickly — noting that Texas is going to need a lot of softwood lumber to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

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