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Trudeau talks tough on NAFTA, says ‘Canada is willing to walk away’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a public town hall in Nanaimo, B.C., on Feb. 2, 2018.

Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a tough line on NAFTA on Friday, repeating that he could walk away if he was not happy with talks to modernize a pact the United States contends needs major changes.

"The negotiations are complex and challenging ... I've said many times, we are not going to take any old deal," Trudeau told a sometimes raucous town hall event in the Pacific province of British Columbia. "Canada is willing to walk away from NAFTA if the United States proposes a bad deal."

"We will not be pushed around. At the same time we can remain confident about NAFTA," he said, adding that if Washington walked away from the deal it would be "extremely harmful and disruptive" to both the United States and Canada.

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Canada and Mexico are striving to address U.S. demands for NAFTA reform, which they argue threaten the highly integrated North American economy.

On Monday, a senior U.S. trade official rejected proposals for unblocking the negotiations but pledged to seek "breakthroughs," easing concerns that Washington would soon withdraw from the $1.2 trillion North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau said he did not think U.S. President Donald Trump would pull out of NAFTA, despite slow progress at the talks.

During the town hall event Trudeau was interrupted by hecklers angry that his Liberal government approved a plan by Kinder Morgan Canada to increase the capacity of an oil pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia.

Police removed at least three demonstrators, who complained the risk of a spill was too great to allow the project to continue. Trudeau repeated that the pipeline would be built.

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer says progress was made at Montreal’s NAFTA talks, but adds he hopes they will 'accelerate.' The Canadian Press
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