Washington (CNN) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said he expects Canadians in the center of the steel industry can "breathe a sigh of relief" as trade talks continue between NAFTA members.
Trudeau, speaking on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Monday, said he believed that relief was justified both by the exemption US President Donald Trump granted Canada and Mexico from his steel and aluminum tariffs and by the understanding he sensed in the US of "the level of complex integration between our two countries on steel and aluminum."
Trump has railed against major global trading partners, most recently by imposing a tariff on steel and aluminum exports, but granted an exemption to Canada and Mexico as the three countries approach a reorganization of NAFTA, the trade agreement Trump has threatened to tear up.
Prior to announcing the exemption, Trump said he would lift the tariffs off of Canada and Mexico only if a new NAFTA deal were signed. Asked if he viewed the tariff exemption as a form of economic blackmail, Trudeau demurred and said his country is also interested in reshaping NAFTA.
"We recognize that the American side is eager to get motion forward on NAFTA," he said. "We are too, so we're glad to do it. But one of the things that I pointed out to the President is that the steel issue, if there were tariffs brought in, it would actually make it more difficult to move forward on NAFTA."
Trudeau said he was working in the interest of his nation, but said it is "very possible to get a good win-win-win" through the NAFTA negotiations.
Asked again about Trump's approach, if the tariffs are a negotiating tactic by Trump, Trudeau again moved past the potential threat.
"We'll just respond the way we have, with focus on the work we do together and not too much worry about the rhetoric," he said.
The White House said in a statement Monday evening that Trudeau and Trump had spoken by phone regarding the steel and aluminum tariff announcement from last week. The statement on the call said Trump had emphasized "quickly concluding" the NAFTA negotiations.