The Slatest

White House Staff Reportedly Asked Justin Trudeau to Convince Trump to Save NAFTA

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 13.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The long arm of Justin Trudeau’s charm knows no earthly bounds. As the Trump administration debated last month following through on its campaign promise to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, the hunky Canadian Prime Minster’s powers of persuasion were called upon by an unusual source to try to save Clinton-era trade deal—the White House. Huh? The Canadian newspaper National Post reports—citing multiple sources in the Canadian government—that Trump’s staff reached out to Trudeau to enlist him in the effort to save NAFTA. And it worked. Or at least it helped. After a flurry of talks with Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto, Trump, against all odds, decided against withdrawing from the accord.

“Well, I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on April 27. “The president of Mexico, who I have a very good relationship, called me. And also, the prime minister of Canada, who I have a very good relationship, and I like both of these gentlemen very much. They called me. They said, ‘Rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?’ I like them very much, I respect their countries very much. The relationship is very special. And I said, ‘I will hold on the termination, let’s see if we can make it a fair deal.’ “

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a member of the president’s White House recruits a foreign head of state to lobby the president, but an extraordinary presidency requires extraordinary methods. “You never know how much of it is theatre, but it didn’t feel that way,” a senior Canadian diplomatic source told the National Post of the request to persuade Trump. “Maybe they’re just learning how to be a government. At least they were open to the conversation, and that stopped them doing something rash and destructive.”