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Trudeau talks Trump tweets, Canadian steel and Russian cyber attacks in Q&A

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to introductions before joining Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent of the New York Times and Catherine Porter, Toronto Bureau Chief for The New York Times, for a panel discussion in Toronto, on June 22, 2017.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

U.S. President Donald Trump's erratic tweets put a "new wrinkle" in international diplomacy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, but the Canadian leader doesn't stay up at night reading them.

Instead, Mr. Trudeau waits for his staff to inform him about Mr. Trump's late-night rantings – including his threat to tear up the North American free-trade agreement.

"There's no question that the way the President chooses to speak directly to people through social media is a new wrinkle in international diplomacy," Mr. Trudeau said Thursday, speaking at a question-and-answer session with The New York Times in Toronto.

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"If important things come up, I hear about them in my morning briefing. And if I get woken up at night for something, it better be more important than a tweet."

In the wide-ranging discussion, Mr. Trudeau said he has told Mr. Trump that Canadian steel exports do not pose a national security threat, calling a U.S. investigation into the matter "just silly"; he also remarked on the possibility of a Russian hack into a Canadian election.

Read more: Hacking likely in Canadian politics, former spy chief Richard Fadden says


"We take very seriously what has been obviously a pattern of disruption by cyber actors – including Russian cyber actors – of democratic processes," Mr. Trudeau said.

As Canada and the United States prepare for free-trade talks in August, Mr. Trudeau said there is "no need for a Plan B" should the negotiations fail.

"Canada is far more important to the United States than the United States realizes," Mr. Trudeau said.

"NAFTA will remain a hugely important and successful trade deal for both of our countries."

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Calling Mr. Trump a "businessman" and a "deal maker," Mr. Trudeau said one of the things he has learned about the U.S. President is that he "actually does listen."

"There's lots of things we disagree on in our approach … but I have always found that whenever he has made an engagement to me or a commitment to me on the phone or in person, he has followed through on that," he said.

Mr. Trudeau said he does not speak with Mr. Trump – "as far as I know" – on the President's cellphone. But he said the standard diplomatic calls are less frequently scheduled in advance than they were with former president Barack Obama, with whom Mr. Trudeau said he shares a "genuine friendship."

"With [President Trump] …it can happen much quicker," he said.

On environmental policy, Mr. Trudeau said Canada would not be renegotiating the Paris accord for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the U.S. withdrew from the deal earlier this month.

"We're not going back on that," Mr. Trudeau said.

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He said he will continue to work with Mr. Trump on environmental initiatives outside of the accord, such as reducing pollution, and noted Canada works with numerous states on climate initiatives.

The Prime Minister called condemnations of his carbon pricing plan, which critics have said will make Canada less competitive with the U.S., "extraordinarily short-sighted."

"If the Unites States slows down on its moving towards the future on climate change, that can be an opportunity for Canada to step up," he said.

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