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.
“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.
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.
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.
The leaders from Canada, the European Union, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with some other observer nations, had dinner at Governor-General Julie Payette’s Quebec residence near La Citadelle in Quebec City Friday night. Quebec troupe Cirque du Soleil was tapped to supply the entertainment.