Canada won’t be “bowled over” at the NAFTA negotiating table, Justin Trudeau vowed Wednesday in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ongoing push for a quicker resolution to the ongoing trade talks.
The prime minister made the comment Wednesday while greeting steelworkers during an early-morning shift change outside a plant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., part of a three-day meet-and-greet tour of communities where steel and aluminum manufacturing are major employers.
“We’re standing up for ourselves. But, we know there’s a win-win-win we can get to,” Trudeau told one employee at the Algoma steel facility.
“The challenge (the United States) faces is that we’re there at the table, we’re contributing but we’re not just going to be bowled over by them,” he added.
“We’re pushing back on some things that we think might not be the right suggestions, which is what people would expect from Canada.”
WATCH: ‘It’s got to be a good deal for Canada’: Trudeau on NAFTA talks
In a phone conversation with Trudeau earlier this week, Trump called for the talks to wrap up promptly – an echo of his administration’s long-standing desire to resolve the negotiations before upcoming congressional elections in the U.S. later this year and a Mexican presidential election July 1.
Trudeau’s visit to the northern Ontario steel community was the latest stop on a tour of metal cities, which began in Alma, Que., moved to Hamilton on Tuesday and was scheduled to wrap up later Wednesday in Regina.
Trump recently exempted Canada and Mexico from tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, although the U.S. government has been dropping hints that the exception is only temporary. Trump in particular has been linking Canada’s fate on tariffs to the outcome of the NAFTA negotiations.
Trudeau credited the co-ordinated efforts of business, labour and political leaders for securing an exemption for Canadian steel and aluminum from the recent threat of U.S. trade duties.
“One of the really strong things about our approach is that we’re all saying the same kinds of things from very, very different perspectives,” he told a roundtable of industry leaders.
Trudeau emphasized how the level of integration between the American and Canadian steel industries means both economies would suffer from trade restrictions.
WATCH: Trudeau says ‘Canada’s been united’ in pushing against U.S. tariffs
“We can see the bridge built with local steel here that literally connects Canada to the United States,” he said, gesturing out the window toward the overpass spanning the nearby St. Marys River that separates the Canadian city from its American namesake in Michigan.
“These are things that I highlighted to the president.”
Earlier in the day, Trudeau was taken on a tour of the Algoma facility. Wearing a white hard hat, he watched from a raised walkway as a red-hot sheet of steel shot along rollers and was sprayed with water, sending a sharp hiss throughout the plant.
During his earlier visits to factories in Saguenay, Que., and Hamilton, Trudeau repeated his message that the national security argument the U.S. has made when it comes to tariffs makes no sense and could not apply to Canada.
Speaking in Hamilton on Tuesday, Trudeau said there are measures in place, including tariffs and tougher border controls, to prevent steel and aluminum producers in other countries from using Canada as a back door to slip cheap metal into the U.S.
WATCH: Trump using new tariffs as bargaining chip on NAFTA
Trudeau said the surplus of steel in the global market is not new and with American tariffs in place, some countries might try to ship their products to the U.S. through Canada.
He said Canada would be alert to such scenarios and would work with industry partners and the U.S. to make sure that doesn’t happen.