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Canadians Say Trade Fight Has Changed Their View Of The U.S.


So what's Canada thinking as President Trump pushes for change on trade? The president called the president of Mexico yesterday to announce they have agreed on some tweaks to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The third nation to that deal, Canada, has yet to sign on. As we're going to hear, the president selectively chose a few dramatic numbers to slam Canadian trade practices. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports on how the president's rhetoric is received north of the border.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: President Trump has insisted for months that Canada, long viewed as a close friend and ally of the U.S., has used NAFTA to cheat American business owners and farmers. He repeated that argument Monday.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have tariffs of almost 300 percent on some of our dairy products, so we can't have that. We're not going to stand for that.

MANN: Trade experts in both countries say, in fact, under NAFTA, the balance of trade has been fairly even. But Trump says if Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn't offer concessions fast, the U.S. will slap tariffs on cars made north of the border.


TRUMP: I think with Canada, frankly, the easiest thing we can do is to tariff their cars coming in. It's a tremendous amount of money, and it's a very simple negotiation. It could end in one day, and we take in a lot of money the following day.

MANN: Many of the cars made in Canada actually pass back and forth across the border as parts are made and assembled. The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, a trade group, issued a statement yesterday urging the White House to quickly re-engage with Canada to avoid disrupting that supply chain. A full-scale trade war would send shock waves through the automobile industry here in Ontario that employs more than 100,000 workers. That threat frightens and angers many Canadians. Patricia Phelpmate is from Nova Scotia.

PATRICIA PHELPMATE: I'm not a Trump fan, plain and simple. I don't trust much what he does.

MANN: Patricia and her husband, Chuck Phelpmate, are on holiday here in Gananoque, Ontario. It's a tourist and port town on the St. Lawrence River that marks this section of the U.S.-Canada border. They say the simmering trade fight has changed the way they view the U.S.

CHUCK PHELPMATE: Buying more Canadian products, right?


C. PHELPMATE: Like, it's opened our eyes up to the U.S. products, and we try to stay away from them.

MANN: Like a lot of people here, the Phelpmates believe NAFTA was fair and neighborly and helped both nations prosper.

C. PHELPMATE: There's got to be give-and-take with this whole trade thing. That's all there is to it. And with him, there is no give-and-take. It's all take and no give.

MANN: A block down the street, Tom Stormont is standing outside his bookstore. He says the Trudeau government should stand firm against the U.S.

TOM STORMONT: There's plenty of other countries want to trade with Canada. Plenty of other countries are getting together to form their own trade group. The U.S. is not going to be a necessary component going forward, I don't think.

MANN: But the reality is that the U.S. is a massive economy compared with Canada. Three-quarters of Canadian exports go to the U.S. Trump's progress on trade with Europe and now this tentative agreement with Mexico could leave Canada isolated and deeply vulnerable. That means the Trudeau government is under enormous pressure to reach some kind of settlement. Trudeau spoke with Trump yesterday by telephone and issued a statement saying the two leaders had a constructive conversation. His foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, arrives in Washington this morning. Brian Mann, NPR News, Gananoque, Ontario. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.