Killing free trade would hurt U.S. middle class, Trudeau tells Chicago crowd
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.
Speaking to a group of Midwest students and officials Wednesday, 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 that 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 any deal just for the sake of getting a renewed agreement.
``We will not be pushed into accepting any old deal,'' he said.
Although a ``blue'' state and city that may be sympathetic to his talk about trade and the environment, Illinois and Chicago were anything but an easy sell for Trudeau on the first day of a four-day swing through the United States.
A small group of protesters quietly gathered outside Trudeau's event at the University of Chicago, demanding he follow through on a pledge for stronger labour and environmental provisions in a new NAFTA.
The demonstration marks a stark divide that Trudeau is walking into during his American trip, where he is set to push his message to keep the border open to goods and services.
Union leaders say Illinois has lost 290,000 manufacturing jobs since NAFTA went into effect, while the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says the state has benefited enormously from free trade.
During meetings with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel earlier in the day, officials repeatedly told reporters that Canada is the state's top trading partner, some $42 billion in trade last year, that many large Canadian companies employ thousands of people in the state, and that Canadian oil flows to refineries in the region.
``It's easy to forget about those things if you're not reminded,'' said Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which promotes local jobs and economic opportunity.
During a question-and-answer session with students at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, Trudeau talked about the trade deal Canada has signed with Pacific Rim countries that don't include the United States. That kind of talk will get more attention from the anti-trade crowd, Maisch said.
In San Francisco, Trudeau will meet Amazon's top executive, Jeff Bezos, among other tech sector executives.
In Los Angeles, Trudeau will deliver a speech Friday about the merits of free trade to local, state and congressional officials at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Institute.