From an aluminium smelter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called US President Donald Trump on Monday to press for a permanent exclusion from US tariffs on aluminium and steel.
President Donald Trump urged the quick completion of the NAFTA negotiations in a phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, amid indications the USA wants a deal wrapped up this spring.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is heading to Washington on Tuesday for two days of talks with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as well as key congressional leaders.
Brazil has said it will seek exemption from the newly imposed tariffs.
The steel tariff threat was seen by many to be an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure Canada and Mexico to complete the NAFTA talks - giving in to other US demands or giving up some of their own -rather than risk the punishing steel and aluminum duties.
Trudeau said tariffs on Canada would have made it harder to get a deal, and said he raised that with the president.
He said he and Trump also "welcomed and encouraged the progress being made on negotiation of the renewed North American Free Trade Agreement" and discussed an opioid crisis affecting both nations.
Trudeau told another USA network that he sees them as separate issues: "We don't link together the tariffs and the negotiations with NAFTA", he told CNBC in an interview from a Quebec aluminum plant Monday. But relative to bigger industries such as agriculture and auto manufacturing, the steel sector only employs 22,000 direct jobs and represented 2 percent of exports a year ago.
NAFTA talks might now enter an intense phase: "President Trump emphasized the importance of quickly concluding the ongoing NAFTA negotiations", said a readout from the White House on Monday's call with Trudeau. Canadian steel is in your tanks. He was to also visit three Canadian steel cities this week to reassure workers.
Mr. Trudeau spoke by telephone with Mr. Trump on Monday to thank him for the "special consideration extended to Canada" while stressing that the steel and aluminum industries are critical to jobs on both sides of the border, his office said in a statement.
Trudeau said Canada already has "significant barriers" in place to prevent low-priced steel and aluminum from being dumped there, and is prepared to work with Washington to "do even more". Marie and Regina this week.