Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau says Canada takes seriously comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump about withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But Morneau told a gathering in New York today he had no insight into when that might happen.
And the finance minister said he has a “high level of confidence” that the new pact negotiated to replace NAFTA will be ratified by all three countries involved.
Morneau made the comments at an event co-hosted by Politico and the Canadian consulate in New York.
He said it’s clear U.S. lawmakers are in the first stages of negotiations toward ratifying the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as USMCA.
On Saturday, Trump told reporters he planned to give formal notice of his intentions to withdraw from NAFTA, which would give American lawmakers six months to approve the USMCA or have no free-trade pact with Canada and Mexico.
“We take everything seriously,” Morneau said when asked whether he took the president’s comments at face value. “While we’ll have to watch and ensure we get through this next stage, we have a high level of confidence that’s achievable.”
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s senior economic adviser, said he and Trump hadn’t spoken in detail about the president’s thinking.
“I think he’s trying to light a fire under Congress — that’s my guess, my hunch,” Kudlow told a conference call with reporters.
“The ceremonies, the signing — the president’s very happy with all of that. Everybody showed up. Trudeau showed up and so forth. And we’re rolling. Congress, on the other hand, is not rolling, and I think President Trump’s intent here was to light a fire under Congress.”
The Canadian Press