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Trump, Trudeau aides in talks amid trade uncertainties

Ottawa: Senior aides to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have met recently with top advisers to US President-elect Donald Trump, the government said today, reportedly with the aim of averting a trade war.

A spokesman for Trudeau confirmed that the prime minister’s principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford have met several times in Washington with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist.

The Globe and Mail, which first reported the talks, described them as a “bridge-building” exercise and charm offencive that seeks to protect Canada from the impact of protectionist policies espoused by the incoming administration.

“This is big stuff we are trying to navigate here,” a senior Canadian official was quoted as saying. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that the country has faced difficult times with the Americans in the past and we have dealt with it.”

During the election campaign, Trump vowed to renegotiate or “terminate” the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which binds Mexico, the United States and Canada in a largely tariff-free trade bloc. Trump blames NAFTA as well as China for the loss of US manufacturing jobs.

Trump’s fire has been directed primarily at Mexico but NAFTA has also been the source of US-Canada trade disputes.