Politics

Trudeau and Trump discuss speeding up NAFTA talks in meeting at G7

Leaders strike a more positive tone one week after cross-border tiff over tariffs

Posted: June 08, 2018
Last Updated: June 09, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets U.S. President Donald Trump during the official welcoming ceremony at the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Que. Friday. The two leaders held an hour-long bilateral meeting later in the day in which they discussed moving NAFTA talks along. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed accelerating NAFTA talks during a bilateral meeting at the G7 summit of Friday.

"The prime minister and the president had a very positive, productive meeting and it lasted longer than originally scheduled,"​ a senior government official, speaking on background, told reporters assembled at the G7 summit Friday.

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"They did discuss NAFTA at length and they discussed the future of NAFTA, and I would say they also talked about accelerating the talks."

The reportedly positive tone of the leaders' one-on-one meeting stood in stark contrast to a week of increasingly testy public statements by Trump, following Canada's announcement last week that it would impose $16.6 billion in tariffs against U.S. products on July 1 in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

But two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told CBC News that Canada has heard this kind of positive rhetoric from Trump before — without seeing results at the NAFTA negotiating table.

One source described Friday's meeting as a "frank" airing of grievances in a "non-emotional setting," adding that Trump appeared surprised that Canada had responded so vehemently to the U.S. tariffs.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump held a bilateral meeting on the edges of the G7 Summit in La Malbaie Quebec  1:55

Before departing Washington for the leaders' summit Friday, Trump took aim at Trudeau and at Canada's supply management system for dairy products, which includes high tariffs on U.S. imports, in comments to U.S. reporters and in a series of tweets.

But in brief remarks to reporters before their bilateral meeting Friday afternoon, Trump seemed to lighten the mood, cracking a joke about Canada dropping all tariffs and claiming that relations between the two countries were perhaps better than they had ever been.

Speaking Friday after the meeting with Trudeau, Trump said he had a positive meeting with the Canadians during which NAFTA was the principal topic of discussion.

"We had a very positive meeting a little while ago on NAFTA. So this is turning out to be an interesting day. But we had a very, very good meeting on NAFTA with Justin and his representatives," Trump said.

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U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, as the G7 summit kicks off in Charlevoix, Que., on Friday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
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A demonstrator raises his fist during the G7 summit Friday in Quebec City, where protesters tried to stop leaders and delegates from the G7 nations from reaching a nearby resort for the summit. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)
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A pair of couches were set on fire at the entrance to Highway 440, which leads to La Malbaie, in Charlevoix-Est, the site of the meeting, 140 km east of the provincial capital. (Alice Chiche/AFP/Getty Images)
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About 500 protesters marched through Quebec City Thursday night to denounce the neo-liberal policies of the G7 countries. Protests continued Friday morning as leaders of the world's most powerful countries gathered at a nearby resort for the summit. (Daniel Coulombe/CBC)
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A protester throws a flare during Thursday's protest march. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte meet at the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Que. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)
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Riot police stand guard as protesters in Quebec City take to the streets. (Yves Herman/Reuters)
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Though the majority of people present at Thursday night's protest were peaceful, about two dozen masked protesters threatened journalists, scrawled graffiti on windows and walls, and set the flags of G7 countries on fire during protests. Three people were arrested. (Daniel Coulombe/CBC)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau pose for a photo with British Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband, Philip May, ahead of the G7 talks. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
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Activists, wearing masks and performing as the leaders of the G7 nations, protest about the double burden that women around the world face outside the National Assembly building in Quebec City. (Yves Herman/Reuters)
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Protesters carry a sign featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
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U.S. President Donald Trump walks from Air Force One upon arrival at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in La Baie, Que., for the G7 Summit. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
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Anti-riot police watch the demonstrators in Quebec City's Beauport borough, during a protest against the G7 summit on June 8. (Andre Pichette/EPA)
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A sign sits in front of the Manoir Richelieu, the site of the G7 leaders summit in La Malbaie, Que. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump's only other bilateral meeting at the G7 summit Friday was with French President Emmanuel Macron. Like Trudeau, Trump has sparred publicly with Macron on Twitter over what the U.S. president calls unfair trade deals that impoverish American interests to the benefit of its allies.

Macron, who fêted Trump in France last year with a lavish state visit in his honour, has been called a "Trump whisperer" — but he hasn't shied away from taking on Trump. Macron called the recent U.S. move to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on EU allies "illegal and a mistake."

But on the tariff file, the leaders were sounding a more positive note Friday.

"We had a very direct and open discussion," Macron told reporters Friday of his one-on-one with Trump. "And I saw the willingness on all the sides to find agreements and have a win-win approach for our people, our workers, and our middle classes."

Beyond the bilateral meetings, the G7 leaders took part in two working groups where discussion of trade was front and centre. Quebec troupe Cirque du Soleil was tapped to supply evening entertainment.

Meanwhile, leaders from several nations attending the G7 as observers were invited to dinner at Gov. Gen. Julie Payette's Quebec residence near La Citadelle in Quebec City Friday night.

Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, stands next Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, right, during a group photo of the leaders of the outreach countries in Quebec City on Friday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Corrections

  • This story has been updated from a previous version that incorrectly stated leaders from the G7 countries attended a dinner in Quebec City Friday. In fact, the dinner hosted by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette was for leaders of the outreach countries.
    Jun 09, 2018 11:02 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Cochrane
CBC News

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from Katie Simpson and John Paul Tasker