GUANGZHOU, China -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would consider one-on-one talks with the U.S. on trade, if negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement fail.
"We will always look at different opportunities," Trudeau said this week in response to a question about a two-way U.S. trade deal at the Fortune Global Forum in China. "We're ready for anything, when things come forward. The new administration has shown a willingness to disrupt the patterns of past behavior and look for new models, and we're willing to entertain next steps forward."
The prime minister, who was in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou to wrap up a five-day visit, said the 23-year-old NAFTA "needs to be updated" and warned that canceling the pact would harm Canadians. "We're still very confident in the kinds of support and response that we've gotten from friends, partners, colleagues in the U.S. who recognize that trade is a powerful driver of growth and benefit to citizens," he said.
While the Canadian government has repeatedly said it was committed to working with Mexico to renew NAFTA, officials have sometimes signaled a willingness to consider a two-way pact of the kind U.S. President Donald Trump prefers. Trump has threatened to scrap NAFTA, which underpins $1.2 trillion of trade, if the other two signatories don't accept proposals that the administration argues will reduce U.S. trade deficits.
Canada and the U.S. had a bilateral trade deal that was superseded and suspended by NAFTA. Canada's chief NAFTA negotiator told lawmakers this week that the old agreement would kick in again if NAFTA failed, although would have to be re-implemented.
(Josh Wingrove contributed to this report)
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