In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Republican strategist Charlie Black suggested that while Trump “has a temper” and is “erratic,” he also listens to advice and might not actually remove the U.S. from NAFTA if he was advised against it.
“Even on things like trade and NAFTA, he’s going come around and we’re going to get a deal,” he said, acknowledging the recent report of an executive order Trump had prepared before aides apparently took it from his desk.
As recently as this past week, Trump threatened to scrap NAFTA and instead sign a bilateral trade deal with Mexico despite only being authorized by Congress to negotiate a revised trilateral NAFTA deal.
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U.S. Democrats have suggested they would block any deal that didn’t include Canada when it comes to a vote.
Mexico has also stressed it wants to see Canada included in the final revised deal.
Negotiators are working toward reaching an agreement by the end of September in order to have it to Congress before the U.S. midterms in November, when Democrats could take over control of the House of Representatives in what is expected to be a referendum on Trump’s time in office so far.
But the Canadian and U.S. sides remain stuck on significant issues including the need for a dispute resolution mechanism, cultural exemption provisions, and the issue of if or how much additional access to allow American farmers in Canada’s tightly-controlled dairy sector.
The backdrop to this round of negotiations has been an explosive and controversial op-ed published in the New York Times by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration that described a “resistance” among White House staff working to constrain the president’s most extreme pursuits.
Black said he doesn’t expect any of that to play into negotiations.
“It’s not going to change things. That’ll blow over in a couple of days. Trump is always going to be controversial, even among people he’s hired,” Black said.
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No deal is expected imminently but he suggested one could be possible “maybe not next week but the week after.”
“Chrystia Freeland’s an excellent negotiator and an excellent spokesperson for Canada’s interests,” he said.
Black said while he understands the approach Trump has taken is causing anxiety for many, both Republicans and Democrats are in consensus that Canada remains the U.S.’s best friend and that isn’t going to change.
“He doesn’t operate by our normal rules and traditions and expectations around here, but he’s done some good things, got some accomplishments, but there’s a lot of chaos that goes along with it,” he said.
“I think we still have a good relationship and I expect the NAFTA agreement to get done.”
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