Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Killing Free Trade Would Hurt U.S. Middle Class, Trudeau Tells Chicago Crowd

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Killing Free Trade Would Hurt U.S. Middle Class, Trudeau Tells Chicago Crowd

Article excerpt

Trudeau heads to 'blue' states to tout trade


CHICAGO - President Donald Trump's threat to tear up the North American free trade pact would cause economic suffering in the United States in a decision that would also be terrible politics, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

Millions of American workers would be harmed, and their lives disrupted in the short-term through a thickening of the border and greater uncertainty, even if Canada and the United States can finalize a deal down the road, he said.

Trudeau said that Canadians are rightly nervous that NAFTA will be torn up -- a repeated threat Trump has made over successive rounds of talks between Canada, the United States and Mexico -- and what it would mean for jobs on both sides of the border.

"Even if theoretically there is a better opportunity for a long-term deal, in the short-term that's a lot of families out of work (and) suffering in a way that I think would be far worse politically," Trudeau said during an event at the University of Chicago.

"The challenge we have is not trade deal versus no trade deal. It's how do we make sure we're benefiting citizens and workers who don't feel like they've been properly supported or cared for over the past years."

In the audience was a group of Midwest students and officials, some of whom are skeptical that trade would help them. Trudeau said that ending free trade between Canada and the United States would hurt the wealthy, but also harm future opportunities for the U.S. middle class.

Trudeau argued the case for free trade hadn't been properly made, which has helped fuel the economic anxiety that students and other Americans feel. The key to reducing the grumbling around globalism is making sure that the rules and policies around trade ensure everyone feels the benefits, he said.

Trudeau framed the North American Free Trade Agreement as being good for Canada and the United States, but was clear that Canada wouldn't be bullied into signing. He said he had concerns about an American proposal for a five-year sunset clause that would cause uncertainty and stifle investment.

"We know we can work towards a good deal, but we also know that we will not be pushed into accepting any old deal," Trudeau said. …

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