Trudeau says Canada will not be 'bowled over' by U.S. in NAFTA talks

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today Canada will not be "bowled over" by the United States at the NAFTA negotiating table, offering new insights into the ongoing trade talks.

The prime minister offered candid insights into Canada-U.S. relations while meeting Ontario steel workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours the Direct Strip Production Complex at Essar Steel Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today Canada will not be "bowled over" by the United States at the NAFTA negotiating table, offering new insights into the ongoing trade talks.

Justin Trudeau made the comment to a steel worker in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as he greeted employees arriving at the local factory's morning shift.

Workers asked Trudeau a series of candid questions about Canada-U.S. relations, the threat of American tariffs on steel and aluminum, and NAFTA.

"(The United States has) now decided they want to get it done quicker, which is good," Trudeau told Matt Frolick, one of the workers who had a question about the trade talks. 

"The challenge they face is that we're there at the table, we're contributing, but we're not just going to be bowled over by them," Trudeau added.

"We're pushing back a little bit on some of the things we think might not be the right ... suggestions, which is is what people would expect.

"We're standing up for ourselves."

Trudeau also wondered aloud how prepared the Americans were for the negotiation process.

"The U.S. hadn't always thought through exactly what they wanted. We knew what we wanted, so we laid it out, and we're working with them in a meaningful way," he said.

As CBC News previously reported, questions have been asked about the American side's negotiating strategy after it was slow to present its specific demands on key issues, like labour standards.

The Prime Minister spoke to Algoma Steel worker Matt Frolick early Tuesday morning in Sault Ste Marie 1:05

Exemption confidence

Trudeau was in Sault Ste. Marie as part of his national tariff reassurance tour.

The prime minister cut short a planned family vacation to instead tour factories and meet with workers — an attempt to ease their anxieties over the possibility the U.S. could still impose new tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump granted Canada and Mexico an indefinite exemption from the tariffs. 

The president has since promised to grant his NAFTA trading partners a permanent exemption — but only if both cave to his demands at the negotiating table.

Canada views NAFTA and the tariffs as completely separate issues.

Trudeau told another steel worker today that "there's a whole bunch of different reasons" why he's confident Canada won't end up being hit by the new tariffs. 

"The whole tariff thing relies on making a national security argument," Trudeau said.

"If they (the U.S.) actually go forward with tariffs on Canada on the basis of national security, it sort of is clear to the world they're not actually focused on national security."

Canada has argued that since it is a staunch ally of the United States, collaborating on national security issues at home and abroad, its steel and aluminum can't be considered a security threat.

About the Author

Katie Simpson

Politics

Katie Simpson is a senior reporter in the Parliamentary Bureau of CBC News. Prior to joining the CBC, she spent nearly a decade in Toronto covering local and provincial issues.

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