Top Trump advisor sent to meet Justin Trudeau
One of President Donald Trump’s top advisors met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and federal cabinet members in Calgary on Monday, and sent a message of reassurance over the future of NAFTA.
Stephen Schwarzman, who leads Trump’s strategic and policy forum, told reporters that Canada shouldn’t worry about Trump’s protectionist rhetoric when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations.
“There may be some modifications but basically, things should go well for Canada in terms of any discussions with the United States,” he said. “Trade between the U.S. and Canada is really very much in balance and is a model for the way that trade relations should be.”
Trudeau and his cabinet are in Calgary for a retreat dominated by talks of how trade relations will look once NAFTA is renegotiated. Any clarity on what that might mean is still months away.
It was originally reported by Reuters and CBC News Monday morning that Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner would also make an appearance in Calgary. However a Trudeau spokesperson later said in a statement that “no other officials from the U.S. administration, beyond Mr. Schwarzman, will be present here at the retreat.”
Huh; top Trump aide Kushner is now not coming to Canada, says government official. Planned trip fell through for logistical reasons #cdnpoli
— David Ljunggren (@reutersLjungg) January 23, 2017
Schwarzman’s visit comes amid other reports that Canadian officials fear a visit to Canada by Trump himself would spark mass protests.
Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has said that the president and Trudeau had spoken on the phone on Saturday and that the two leaders planned to meet in person within the next month.
Trudeau’s office has already reportedly held a dozen of meetings on everything from trade to national security with key Trump operatives, including White House chief of staff Steve Bannon. NAFTA has been of particular concern, since Trump has promised to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade pact between his country, Canada, and Mexico.
Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told reporters on Sunday evening the worry is that Canada will become “collateral damage” as it seeks to redraft trade deals. On Monday, Trump signed an executive order confirming his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive 12-country deal that includes Canada.
In his view, the new U.S. government isn’t particularly concerned with Canada-US relations.
“They’re principally focused on the countries that have large trade deficits with them,” MacNaughton said Sunday of the way Trump officials are approaching NAFTA renegotiations. “I don’t think Canada’s the focus at all.”
“That’s what we’ve got to worry about is that we’re collateral damage,” he said. “And so part of this is just making sure that they understand how important Canada is to their economy.”
A statement on the White House website says that unless Canada and Mexico negotiates the trade deal in a way that “gives American workers a fair deal, then the president will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.” However, it could be months before negotiations even begin, as hearings to confirm Trump’s trade representative pick haven’t even been set.
Last week, Canada’s trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters he was optimistic the TPP could survive without the U.S.
Cover: Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press