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Canadians Angered Over Trade And President Trump's Comments On Prime Minister Trudeau


Now let's look at another relationship rocked by a trade dispute, this one closer to home. Under NAFTA, trade between Canada and the U.S. has grown. And relations have been reliably friendly, even boring, for decades. That is no longer the case ever since President Trump accused Canada of predatory trade practices and tweeted insults at Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. As North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports, Canadians are angry and frightened.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: This is Hemmingford, Quebec. It's a tiny little village just about three miles north of the New York border. It's gorgeous. The flowers are all blooming. It's as charming as a Canadian village can be. I've come here because the rhetoric between these two countries has become fierce, with President Trump calling Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau dishonest and weak. So I'm here asking people what do they think.

LEIF JACOBSEN: I think he's a complete idiot.

MANN: Leif Jacobsen is a retired florist who says he loves Americans, but not Donald Trump.

JACOBSEN: Look how he was acting the other day with our prime minister. His comments were just awful. He's not a gentleman.

MANN: Feelings here about U.S.-Canada trade are nuanced. People get that there are aspects of this relationship that need to be reworked. But when it comes to Trump, a lot of Canadians are angry. They view the president with real fear and uncertainty.

ED KELLEY: He's just playing loose with the truth again.

MANN: Ed Kelley is from Bellwood, Ontario, passing through Hemmingford on a motorcycle tour. He hopes Trump will come back to the bargaining table on NAFTA. But he also worries Canadians, with their much smaller economy, are really vulnerable.

KELLEY: I don't know what we could do to the U.S. they couldn't do back ten times over.

MANN: Even before Trump began talking about ending NAFTA, Canadians saw America as the 800-pound gorilla, the big guy on the block. About 75 percent of Canadian exports go to the U.S., so a full-scale trade war would be disastrous for companies here. Robert Goodfellow runs a lumber mill in Hemmingford that exports to the U.S. He says he admires Trump as a tough negotiator and businessman and hopes there's a method to all the fierce rhetoric.

ROBERT GOODFELLOW: He shoots these things out. Does he mean it? Or is it just - is it something that he says that he wants to spark a discussion on, or - hard to say.

MANN: A lot of people in Hemmingford say they just can't believe this relationship with the U.S. is on the edge of a cliff. They say again and again they think most of the North American Free Trade Agreement will be salvaged. But Christopher Kirkey, a Canadian who runs SUNY's Center for the Study of Canada, says it may be too late.

CHRISTOPHER KIRKEY: There was a line crossed this past weekend. I think we're in for some pretty problematic times in the Canada-U.S. relationship.

MANN: Kirkey points to comments by top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who blasted Trudeau last Sunday in an appearance on Fox News.


PETER NAVARRO: There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump.

MANN: Navarro later apologized. But Kirkey says rhetoric like that from the White House and growing anger across the political spectrum here in Canada make it harder for Trudeau to offer trade compromises that might ease the crisis.

KIRKEY: I think it would be politically difficult, very difficult, for him to come out and make significant concessions to the United States.

MANN: Which means the two sides could be stuck on a collision course toward a full-scale trade war, one that would unravel NAFTA, replacing it with new tariffs, new trade barriers and new uncertainty. The U.S. has already put new tariffs on aluminum, steel and newsprint and is contemplating a trade tax on cars and car parts. Canada's retaliatory tariffs are set to go into effect July 1. Brian Mann, NPR News, Hemmingford, Quebec. 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.