Trudeau says Liberals 'on the right track' with Trump as Canada eyes steel tariff exemption

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has a "level of confidence" that Canada will secure an exemption from hefty U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, crediting robust outreach efforts by his Liberal government.

PM says his government's outreach efforts have had a positive influence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is optimistic Canada will be exempted from steep U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has a "level of confidence" that Canada will secure an exemption from hefty U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, crediting robust outreach efforts by his Liberal government.

In an interview today with CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Trudeau said Canada has delivered persuasive arguments to American officials about the level of integration between the two nations' economies and their close co-operation on security, from past world wars to modern-day operations.

But the prime minister said he will take it "one step at a time," since he's dealing with an unpredictable U.S. administration.

"As usual with this president, we'll wait and see what he actually does," Trudeau said to Metro Morning host Matt Galloway about Donald Trump.

"But I think there's a level of confidence because of the work we've been doing over the past week, not just with the president and his office, but throughout the United States — business, Congress, everyone else — that there's going to be a recognition that Canada is in a particular situation in our close relationship."

Trump's trade and manufacturing adviser, Peter Navarro, has said the planned tariffs would not immediately apply to Canada and Mexico.

He told Fox Business on Wednesday night  that Trump intends to sign a proclamation that includes a clause to exempt the two neighbouring countries from the tariffs, which could come into effect within 15 to 30 days.

The tariff plan comes as the U.S., Canada and Mexico continue to renegotiate the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump said earlier that the tariff would only exempt Canada and Mexico if those talks reached a successful conclusion.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that exemptions to the proposed tariffs would be made on a "case-by-case" and "country-by-country" basis.

Common economic goals

In the CBC interview, Trudeau said he and Trump share a common goal of boosting the economy and creating jobs.

"Because our countries are so well connected, there is a close alignment within that, and when we move forward on things that are going to be good for the Canadian economy, and good for American middle class as well, we know that we're always going to be on the right track with this president," he said.

PM Justin Trudeau says he is confident that President Trump will exempt Canada from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs later today. 0:36

Next week, Trudeau will tour regions of Canada that are heavily reliant on the steel and aluminum industries in a show of solidarity with those who would be hurt most by stiff U.S. tariffs.

Trudeau has been reaching out to European allies and U.S. political leaders to make Canada's case for an exemption.

Today, he spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron. They discussed progressive trade and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), as well as trade in steel and aluminum and the importance of "supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system," according to a PMO briefing to reporters.

Trudeau also spoke today with Paul Ryan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, emphasizing the "complementary and integrated nature of steel and aluminum industries on both sides of the border," according to the PMO. 

On the calls, Trudeau stressed that Canada is a safe and secure supplier of steel and aluminum to the U.S., recognized under U.S. law as part of the U.S. defence industrial complex. 

Last night, Trudeau spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and also discussed the steel and aluminum tariff issue.

India trip do-over? 'Absolutely.'

Trudeau also was asked about his recent trip to India, which was overshadowed by criticism of his family's Indian-style wardrobe choices and the dinner reception invitation extended to Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted of attempted murder for a 1986 attack on an Indian cabinet minister.

Asked by Galloway if he would take another run at it and do things differently given the chance, Trudeau said: "Absolutely, absolutely. There wouldn't have been an invite to Atwal, for example."

PM Justin Trudeau says that despite distractions over things like the Atwal invitation, he would do the trip to India all over again because of the positives like the business deals that were gained. 1:01

But the prime minister deemed the trip an overall success in terms of building a relationship with India and attracting $1 billion in bilateral investment.

Atwal is holding a news conference in Vancouver today.

Today being International Women's Day, Trudeau was asked to share his feelings about the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. He said the movements represent a long-overdue moment of transformative change.

"We need a fundamental shift in how our workplaces function and how women feel protected and safe in those workplaces," he said.

Trudeau said that while his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was strong in all the "classic male" ways, his mother Margaret taught him that strength has many aspects, including resilience and "strength through vulnerability."

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