President Donald Trump was infuriated by a major foreign policy speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in Washington D.C. in June of this year, sources tell Global News.
Minister Freeland travelled to the U.S. capital to receive the prestigious Diplomat of the Year Award from Foreign Policy Magazine.
In her acceptance speech, Freeland directly addressed Americans in the room, raising concerns about the direction the United States has been taking under the Trump administration. She criticized America’s approach to international relations including trade, tariffs, and key alliances like NATO.
WATCH ABOVE: Freeland says Mexico-U.S. NAFTA negotiations is only on bilateral issues
While the speech received much critical praise, the White House felt differently. Sources say both U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and President Trump viewed the speech as an insult, not only targeting administration publicly but doing so on their turf in Washington.
The conflict came at a crucial time when the relationship was souring shortly after the challenging G7 meetings in Charlevoix, Que.
The White House was not fond of Chrystia Freeland even before the speech, according to multiple sources who said the president’s staff and allies dislike Minister Freeland, her policy positions, and how she negotiates.
WATCH: Trump says trade deal with Canada will be next priority after Mexico
Critics are asking if the negative impression of Freeland at the White House has affected NAFTA negotiations.
WATCH ABOVE: Trump: I have a lot of meetings that people aren’t sure were good or not
Senior government officials in Ottawa insist they’re not worried about that, saying the deal is far bigger than personalities. The Trudeau government believes that Freeland is only disliked because she has been so relentless in bluntly pushing forward Canadian interests.
The speech was no oversight, said one source who indicated it was designed to send a message to Canada’s allies in the U.S. that Canada would not back down. This was a calculated decision aimed at shoring up support for a NAFTA deal.
The Days Ahead
The Trudeau government believes this could be the most critical week yet in NAFTA negotiations and that a deal could be done by the end of the week.
The U.S.-Mexico trade deal announced Monday was welcomed by government officials and in public statements celebrated it as a sign of things to come for Canada. Sources say they believe Trump is willing to negotiate and so is Ottawa.
Mercedes Stephenson is Ottawa bureau chief of Global News and host of The West Block.