Politics

Wilbur Ross accuses Trudeau of using Davos speech to up NAFTA pressure

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his speech at the World Economic Forum to talk up Canada's role in a new version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Canada's finance minister says they won't stop talking about benefits of trade

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who arrived in Davos on Wednesday, told reporters Trudeau's speech was designed 'to put a little pressure on the U.S.' in NAFTA talks. (The Associated Press)

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took a shot at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, accusing him of using his speech at the World Economic Forum a day earlier to apply pressure on the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement re-negotiations.

Ross made the comments to reporters after arriving in Davos, Switzerland, for the forum.

In a speech Tuesday, Trudeau talked up Canada being part of a new Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 other nations. The original TPP was scuttled after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from it.

In a question and answer period after his speech, Trudeau was asked if he thought the new TPP deal was so good that the U.S. would join.

"We're working very hard to make sure our neighbour to the south recognizes how good NAFTA is," Trudeau said with a chuckle. "And that it's benefited not just our economy but his economy and the world's economy."

Ross said that Trudeau's speech was designed "to put a little pressure on the U.S. in the NAFTA talks."

Canada's finance minister, Bill Morneau, insisted this is not evidence of an escalation of words between the two countries.

But he made no apologies for the prime minister touting the new TPP deal or NAFTA.

"We'll continue to talk about the benefits of trade. We're proud of [the TPP]. We signed something that's going to make a difference to our economy," said Morneau.

"With NAFTA, negotiations are tough ... and we should expect there will be challenges."

Morneau and Mnuchin talk

Morneau met with his U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, over lunch Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Mnuchin told reporters that the Trump administration believes in "bilateral trading agreements," but wants to ensure "U.S. opportunities are equal to other people's opportunities in the U.S."

Finance Minister Bill Morneau is also in Davos as part of Canada's delegation to the World Economic Forum. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Morneau said he and Mnuchin discussed their respective economies, the G7 summit that Canada is hosting this year and NAFTA.

Reporters asked Morneau if Mnuchin believes that NAFTA is important for both countries.

"Of course, he understands the importance of NAFTA for American businesses, " Morneau said. "And we understand it for Canadian businesses."

Saving some version of NAFTA was the focus of a private roundtable Wednesday between Trudeau and leaders of major U.S. corporations with big stakes in NAFTA. Those leaders are being encouraged to ramp up talk in the U.S. of the benefits of the trade agreement.

With files from Canadian Press

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