The Canadian government is preparing for “all eventualities” in the wake of tough talk on trade from U.S. President Donald Trump last week, says the parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Matt DeCourcey was cautious but firmly optimistic as he sat down with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend to discuss Trump’s recent comments.
Among other things, the president called trade agreements with Canada “a disaster” and Canada’s approach to the dairy industry “disgraceful.” It was some of the strongest language he has used against Ottawa thus far.
But DeCourcey says Trump’s stance just isn’t reflected in the conversations happening behind the scenes.
“Look, I think that Canadians need to know that in the conversations that we have with our allies and friends in the U.S., things are moving productively,” he said.
“We’ve heard these things come out of the president’s mouth before, but in my conversations with my colleagues who have actively been speaking with their counterparts in the U.S., there’s an acknowledgement and an understanding of the importance of trade between our two countries.”
Still, DeCourcey added, it would be a bad idea to simply disregard what the president has been saying as the two countries prepare for a looming renegotiation of NAFTA.
“It can be concerning to hear these things,” he said.
“I think it’s important to prepare for any eventuality with the U.S. … and to be, I think, cognizant of the words from the president, but again I reiterate that our relationship with the U.S. has been a productive and professional one.”
One of the biggest irritants for Trump seems to be Canada’s approach to dairy, and specifically the supply management system that has kept our markets out of reach to outside competitors for decades.
Asked if the Liberal government is willing to budge on supply management to appease the White House, DeCourcey wouldn’t commit to an answer.
“Dairy farmers and producers and all of Canada should know that our government supports the great work that they do,” he noted, echoing recent comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
“At this point, I think it’s premature to discuss what exactly the negotiations will entail. Certainly, there are indications from the U.S., but that gives our officials in Canada an opportunity to prepare.”