Trudeau made the remarks while speaking at the University of Chicago on Wednesday night.
“We will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal,” he said.
But Trudeau also made it clear that President Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the North American free trade pact would cause economic suffering in the United States in a decision that would also be terrible politics.
Millions of American workers would be harmed and their lives disrupted in the short term through a thickening of the border and greater uncertainty, even if Canada and the United States can finalize a deal down the road, he said.
“One of the benefits of NAFTA is the stability that it provides in terms of investments and building supply chains that criss-cross the border – that’s good for our economy, that’s good for your economy, it just makes a lot of sense,” he said.
“Anything that provides a level of uncertainty like a sunset clause for example to businesses is something we have grave reservations about.”
Speaking to a group of Midwest students and officials Wednesday — some of whom are skeptical that trade would help them — Trudeau said that ending free trade between Canada and the United States would hurt the wealthy, but also harm future opportunities for the U.S. middle class.
The comments from Trudeau came as American trade representative Robert Lighthizer said frustration with Canada could lead to finishing NAFTA negotiations with Mexico first, then doing a separate negotiation with Canada later, according to Congressman Ron Kind.
Trudeau is visiting the U.S. for the ninth time since President Trump took office – while there, he will also meet with executives from Silicon Valley, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
In Los Angeles, Trudeau will deliver a speech Friday about the merits of free trade to local, state and congressional officials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Institute.
*with files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press