Canadian minister looking forward to Trump trade talks

TORONTO (AP) — A Canadian government minister said Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration is looking forward to trade negotiations with Donald Trump despite the U.S. president’s recent ramp up of criticism of Canadian policy.

Trump made his most critical comments yet about Canadian trade earlier in the day.

“We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “Included in there is lumber, timber and energy. We’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly.”

The president took issue with Canadian changes on milk classification that he said have put farmers in Wisconsin and New York state out of business. Canada changed its policy on pricing domestic milk to cover more dairy ingredients, leading to lower prices for Canadian products including ultra-filtered milk that compete with U.S. milk.

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“Canada, what they’ve done to our dairy farm workers, is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace,” Trump said.

Canadian Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr told The Associated Press that the government will make its arguments about trade based on facts.

“Decision makers make statements that indicate a position that they intend to take and we’re in the business of responding to positions that are actually taken,” Carr said when asked about Trump’s comments. “Our government looks forward to sitting down with the United States. We will judge American policy when American policy is announced.”

Carr said Canada’s government knows it can make a very persuasive case for the integration of the two nations’ economies when the sides meet for trade talks in a few months. He said they can always look to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump said this week he would make “some very big changes” to the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico or “we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all.”

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland noted in a statement in response to Trump that any increase of trade barriers between the two countries would significantly affect jobs in the U.S. and Canada.

Trudeau is worried about Trump’s protectionist talk and has repeatedly sent his ministers to the U.S. to talk about the importance of the trade relationship. Carr will be in New York next week.

“It is part of the government of Canada’s strategy to make arguments and make friends,” he said.

When Trudeau visited the White House in February, Trump praised the “outstanding” trade relationship between the United States and Canada, saying he would only be “tweaking” it going forward.

Relations with the U.S. are crucial for Canada, since more than 75 percent of its exports go to the U.S. Eighteen percent of U.S. exports go to Canada.

“Canada would enter any negotiations with the objective to make it better for both countries,” Carr said. “We have such a long and fruitful history of trade with the United States.”

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