Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he offered to go to Washington this week to complete talks on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that Vice President Mike Pence called and told him that a meeting with the American president would only happen if Trudeau a five-year suspension clause in the deal.
Trudeau said he refused to go because of the “totally unacceptable” precondition. He made the comment while outlining Canada’s response to US tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.
In a call to President Donald Trump last Friday, Trudeau offered to meet Trump because he felt they were close to an agreement that only required a “final moment to generate agreements.”
Trudeau said Trump seemed nice before Pence called him on Tuesday.
“I stated that I thought we were quite close to reaching an agreement, and perhaps the time had come for me to sit down with the president in Washington in order to finalize the NAFTA agreement,” Trudeau said in French. “We already had the bones of a very good agreement for all parties, and I thought it might be opportune for all of us to sit down for a few hours and discuss it.”
Trudeau has said for a long time that he would not accept a suspension clause because companies need certainty when making long-term investments and putting a suspension clause every five years would create uncertainty.
“I had to highlight there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause and obviously the visit didn’t happen,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau previously regretted Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Canada announced plans to apply tariffs on US products worth $ 12.8 billion, ranging from steel to yogurt and toilet paper.
Trudeau said he regrets the action, but said they should do it.
“We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration,” Trudeau said.