Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday night that he is "legitimately concerned" about the future of NAFTA, but he maintained that his nation will not be cowed into taking a disadvantageous deal for the sake of preserving the trade agreement.
"We are legitimately concerned about the future of NAFTA because the President has said he's not sure it's a good thing," Trudeau told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. The conversation came during a four-day US tour for the Prime Minister.
"When Canadians see me engaging constructively, collaboratively -- but firmly -- at the negotiating table on NAFTA, saying, 'Look we know there are ways to modernize and improve NAFTA in ways that will create a win-win-win when we include Mexico,' there is a path absolutely for that. But we are not going to take a win-loss just for the sake of getting a deal," he said.
"We know we can work towards a good deal. But we also know that we will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal. And being firm on that is, I think, what Canadians expect of me," the Prime Minister added.
President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to renegotiate or terminate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it "the worst trade deal in history." Almost all trade tariffs among the three member nations -- the US, Canada and Mexico -- were eliminated under the deal, and the pact made it easier for companies to relocate their operations. Trump has the authority to pull the United States out of the deal without congressional approval; he simply has to give Canada and Mexico six months' notice.
Trudeau said Canada would be willing to modernize the terms of the agreement, and he stressed the interdependence of the two nations' economies.
"Frankly, there is no country in the world that has a greater vested interest in the United States being successful than Canada," he said. "You know, when you sneeze, we catch a cold. I mean, we're so interlinked that absolutely we want to make sure it's a good deal for the United States, because that's part of making a good deal for Canada."
Negotiators from the US, Canada and Mexico are continuing to hash out the details of a compromise on NAFTA. They met in Montreal at the end of January for a sixth round of negotiations. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the round was "a step forward" but that progress was being made "very slowly." Substantial differences on divisive issues like auto manufacturing remained.