Champagne told The West Block’s Vassy Kapelos that the federal government is “very well prepared” for whatever Trump and his newly appointed trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, put on the table in terms of trade talks.
“For us, I’ve always said we need to be proactive, firm and smart,” Champagne said. “This is an agreement that has been providing millions of good middle-class jobs on both sides.”
Trade tensions between the U.S. and Canada have been high recently after the Trump administration announced duties of up to 24 per cent on lumber imports, the latest flare-up in the decades-old softwood lumber feud.
Trump has said phone calls from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Enrique Pena Nieto persuaded the U.S. president to reconsider, while another report suggested Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner prevented him from following through.
Champagne said he met with Senator John McCain last week to discuss the importance of keeping open trade between the two countries.
The Trump administration still has not sent a letter to Congress declaring its intention to launch NAFTA negotiations in 90 days.
Meanwhile, the Trade Minister said Ottawa is looking to other markets in Europe and China to diversify Canada’s customer base and strengthen industries like forestry.
“On softwood, we were just in China and this is a real buyer,” Champagne said. “The free-trade agreement with Europe is coming into force momentarily and that is going to provide benefits to Canadians, better markets, bigger markets … trade is in our DNA.”