Trudeau responds to latest anti-Canada trade tirade

By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press | April 21, 2017 | Last updated on April 21, 2017
3 min read

One day after Donald Trump called Canada a “disgrace” for policies that hurt American farmers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he plans to be respectful and engage with the U.S. on a fact-based approach to solve problems.

“I will stand up for Canada’s interests, I will stand up for Canadians,” Trudeau said Friday during a news conference alongside the visiting Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni. “The way to do that is to make arguments in a respectful fashion, based on facts, and work constructively and collaboratively with our neighbours.”

Trudeau offered that reply to the U.S. president’s latest anti-Canada trade tirade, one in which Trump savaged Canada for creating a new lower-priced classification of milk product that he argues is hurting U.S. producers.

Both Trudeau and Gentiloni, who was in Washington himself on Thursday, were keen to display their support for free trade and open borders, including the Canada-EU free trade pact, in the face of growing populist opposition.

Trump’s presence was strongly felt during the visit, as is becoming almost routine with most of Trudeau’s international interactions.

In the wake of his own visit to the White House, Gentiloni said Canada and Italy share a common, pro-trade world view and that they live in “interesting times.” He also said the anti-trade movement is bigger than one single country, the U.S.

“The United States president’s opinions are perfectly legitimate,” the Italian leader said through a translator.

“But we have to be aware of the fact that this push that goes against free trade as a catalyst for world growth […] that is why we need to work politically, culturally and economically to fight against this trend.”

Italy is to host the G7 leaders’ summit next month, which will be part of Trump’s entry into the world of multilateral summitry. Trudeau said the subject of the upcoming summit formed a large part of his talks with Gentiloni. Trudeau also said he will have an audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City after the G7 talks.

Trump on Thursday praised Italy’s contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its efforts to promote stability in Libya.

Italy has also committed to increase its defence spending to 2% of gross domestic product, the target Trump wants all NATO members to reach. Trudeau, however, has long insisted Canada is already doing its fair share.

Gentiloni said Italy supports free-trade agreements and its economy relies on exports. The remark stood in contrast to Trump’s latest denunciation of the North American Free Trade Agreement–the president said this week he’s anxious to see some “some very big changes” to the pact.

As he offered congratulations on Canada’s 150th birthday, Gentiloni said the two countries share “the same line” on many issues.

Trudeau also lauded the “tremendously strong” trade ties between the two countries. “We are living in interesting times and this common vision, I think, will be helpful for us and for the world,” Gentiloni said.

Trudeau thanked him for Italy’s support bringing the Canada-EU free trade deal together. “On a broad range of things, we find ourselves tremendously aligned,” Trudeau said, who visited Europe last winter to praise free trade agreements, including the Canada-EU pact.

Trump’s arrival on the broader world stage is set to happen in late May.

It will start with the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels, just before the G7 leaders meet in Italy–summits which both Trump and Trudeau are expected to attend.

Trump has roundly criticized many of the world’s international institutions, and once called NATO obsolete.

The G7 summit will be important for Trudeau because it will serve as a handover of sorts for next year, when it becomes Canada’s turn to host the gathering.

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Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Mike Blanchfield is a reporter with The Canadian Press, a national news agency headquartered in Toronto and founded in 1917.