Minutes after U.S. President Donald Trump denounced Canada’s NAFTA negotiating tactics and said he did not much care for Canada’s chief negotiator, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Trump’s emissary to Canada was praising Freeland for her intelligence and patience.
WATCH ABOVE: A day after U.S. President Donald Trump trashed Canada’s approach to NAFTA talks, they continued.
Trump, late in the afternoon on Wednesday, was asked if he had snubbed a request from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a one-on-one meeting while the two leaders were in New York City for the annual “leaders week” at the United Nations. Trump said yes, he had rejected such a request from Trudeau because, among other reasons, he doesn’t like the way Canada negotiates and “we don’t like their representative very much.”
Trump did not single out Freeland by name but Freeland has been Canada’s chief “representative” in NAFTA trade talks since Day 1.
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump says he rejected a one-on-one meeting with Justin Trudeau and that they don’t like lead NAFTA negotiator Chrystia Freeland.
Freeland, a former journalist and best-selling author, was named the Diplomat of the Year last spring by Foreign Policy magazine, a publication owned by The Washington Post, which Trump has branded as a media enemy.
Freeland’s acceptance speech in Washington was seen by many as a rebuke of Trump’s foreign policy, a rebuke which is said to have angered the president himself.
Then, on Sept. 10, Freeland participated in an event in Toronto titled “Taking on the Tyrant,” an event at which Trump was linked in a video montage as part of the “rise of the autocrats.” The video montage contained images of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump.
And yet, on Wednesday evening, Kelly Craft, Trump’s ambassador to Canada, told reporters whom she had invited to her Ottawa residence for a reception to meet some new members of her staff, that Freeland was among the smartest and most articulate women she knows, who has always been pleased to brief the U.S. ambassador on specific trade issues, particularly agricultural issues which are close to Craft and her family, who grew up among Kentucky’s dairy and tobacco farmers. Invitations to the reception were sent out last month and about 50 journalists and embassy staff attended the reception.
WATCH: Trudeau reacts to Trump’s criticism of NAFTA negotiations, denies requesting meeting
Craft did not give a speech but, in individual conversations with various guests, spoke fondly and favourably of Freeland. About 40 people attended the 90-minute reception and, over a glass of wine or one of the four different Kentucky bourbons on offer, the current state of NAFTA negotiations was the top topic of discussion.
For Craft, who will mark one year in the office on Oct. 23, NAFTA has dominated her time. She said she has not yet spent more than four consecutive days in Canada as she is frequently called to Washington to brief American officials on Canadian viewpoints or to participate in the negotiations.
WATCH: Trump slams Canada on NAFTA
And she said has developed a good and productive relationship with David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington. She said she spoke to MacNaughton Wednesday morning, just ahead of an event in Toronto in which MacNaughton said he believed that there was a 50-50 chance that Canada and the U.S. would come to an agreement on NAFTA by the end of the month on Sunday.
As for Trump’s assertion that he rejected a request from Canada for a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Trudeau, Matt Pascuzzo, a press secretary to Trudeau, said no such meeting had been requested.
Other senior officials with the Canadian government, characterized Trump’s comments as “the usual pressure” to be expected late in a negotiation with the U.S. president.
The Trump administration is expected to table the text of its trade deal with Mexico on Friday. That would fulfil a legal requirement that the U.S. Congress has 60 days to scrutinize that text before the current Mexican administration could sign off on that deal before it leaves office on Dec. 1.
Canadian officials and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had hoped that Canada would be included in the text sent to Congress later this week but both Lighthizer and Canadian officials said they expected negotiations with Canada to continue through the weekend and into next week with the objective of eventually including Canada in the text to be considered by Congress.