U.S. envoy says Trump fond of Trudeau, despite trade tensions

The U.S. ambassador to Canada says President Donald Trump is fond of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau despite tensions that arose during tough talks to renegotiate the North American free-trade deal.

Mr. Trump and some of his top advisers have hurled insults at Mr. Trudeau during the contentious trade talks over the past year. The President called Mr. Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” after the Group of Seven leaders summit in Quebec in June and, in October, Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow described the Prime Minister as that “little punk kid running Canada.”

In the final days of the negotiations, Mr. Trump even threatened to cut Canada out of the trade deal.

Despite these attacks, ambassador Kelly Craft said Mr. Trump always asks about Mr. Trudeau when she speaks to him.

“Actually, he really likes Prime Minister Trudeau,” Ms. Craft told reporters during an interview at her Ottawa residence. “The President is very fond of Justin Trudeau, and I can assure you their relationship will only grow stronger.”

Ms. Craft said the President has an invitation to visit Canada but she was unable to say when that might happen.

The ambassador was asked how difficult it is for her to do her job in Canada when many Canadians do not think highly of the U.S. President, who is known for his over-the-top tweets.

“All that I can do is maintain the person that I am," she said “I would hope that people, when dealing with me, would see maybe a different gentleness, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is who he is. He has not changed. “

But Ms. Craft, a Republican fundraiser from Kentucky who was named ambassador to Ottawa a year ago, also strongly defended Mr. Trump, saying his tone and “American First” policies have hit a touchstone with U.S. workers.

"His tone is directed at the people who voted him into office. And that is all he is really concerned about,” she said. “These people have not had a voice. They have pretty much been invisible, and for once they feel visible and they feel needed and they feel wanted, and he responds to that.”

The ambassador praised Canadians as “fierce negotiators” and said she is confident the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will be ratified by the new U.S. Congress.

The Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the new year, and Representative Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be House Majority leader, has called for labour and environmental changes to the trade agreement that was signed Nov. 30.

“This is really not a partisan issue. But, it’s important that we do stay engaged and answer questions. And I don’t feel like there’s going to be any issues,” Ms. Craft said of the deal that must be ratified by legislatures in all three countries.

TheGlobalAndMail

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