When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump meet at the G7 Summit later this week, it will be the first time they have spoken since the latter slapped steep new tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum under widely panned “national security” fears.
And while the first word Trudeau says he will offer Trump is “hello,” what follows might not be quite as cordial.
“We’re going to have some very, very frank conversations, clearly around the table,” Trudeau said in an interview with Global National’s Dawna Friesen.
“I mean that’s something that’s hard to not sort of scratch your head and say, ‘In what universe has Canada — your NORAD partner, we fought and died side-by-side in so many places around the world — somehow become a national security threat?”
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On May 31, Trump announced he would not renew an exemption granted to Canada, Mexico and the European Union from tariffs of 25 per cent and 10 per cent imposed on imports of foreign steel and aluminum to the United States.
The tariffs had first been announced on other nations in March, and Canada had twice secured temporary reprieves.
However, Trump has repeatedly said he views the tariffs as being tied to progress on NAFTA talks and those negotiations have been increasingly deadlocked in recent weeks.
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Canada and the European Union announced shortly after the tariffs were imposed that they will challenge the decision at the World Trade Organization.
Canada also slapped retaliatory tariffs of 25 per cent and 10 per cent on 44 types of steel alloy products and 84 other products ranging from aluminum and orange juice to whiskey, washing machines, peanut butter and beer.
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Both Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland have called the imposition of the tariffs under American national security legislation “absurd.”
When asked whether Trudeau will say that to Trump face-to-face, he nodded.
With progress on NAFTA stalled, Trump has suggested in recent days he would be open to pursuing bilateral deals with both Canada and Mexico separately.
Canada, Trudeau said, would not be as keen.
“That’s been the latest idea the president has brought up,” he said.
“When we look at the gains that come from having a continent-wide trade deal … it’s much better to do it that way and that’s why we’re going to continue to defend that.”
So is NAFTA dead?
“No. No, it’s very much still in place and ongoing,” Trudeau said.
“As long as there’s a table to negotiate at, Canadians will be there.”