Trump And Trudeau Talk Tiptoes Through Tariff Tensions

President Donald J. Trump is joined by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the USMCA signing ceremony Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Though the subject of the Trump administration’s blanket tariffs on aluminium and steel were a subject of discussion between the two men, insiders say United States President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not reach an agreement to hold formal talks between the two governments on the matter.

Meanwhile, on the record the two leaders were noncommittal on the subject. Trudeau’s office said in a release that the duo “discussed next steps in addressing steel and aluminum tariffs” without elaborating further. On the other side of the border, the White House described discussions of “bilateral trade issues,” but they did not go into detail, either.

Per a source who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, Trudeau’s office using the term the “next steps” was done in a very general sense.

“There are no specific negotiations taking place, nor are there any specific negotiations scheduled,” he explained to Reuters.

“The prime minister raises it with the president every time he talks about it.”

When asked for an opinion on the subject, neither Trudeau’s office nor the office of the Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took the opportunity to elaborate on the situation.

Trudeau has steadfastly opposed the Trump tariffs since they were implemented last spring. Canada was unable to secure a rare exception to the measures, opting instead to retaliate with trade sanctions of its own.

The impasse over aluminium and steel tariffs nearly upended the talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) replacement this summer. Though initially declaring an intent to shun the talks if the Trump administration’s trade measures stayed in place, Trudeau eventually relented and participated in negotiations for what ultimately became the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Though Trump said early last month that he intended to begin the process of pulling out of NAFTA in favor of the USMCA, he has yet to do so, ostensibly to give his fellow Republicans in the Senate more time to drum up support for the new agreement.



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