White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner played a key role in the U.S.-Canadian talks that ultimately resulted in President Trump’s decision last month to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement instead of scrapping the pact altogether, according to multiple reports – but exactly who blinked first is unknown.
Canada’s The National Post reported Monday that a White House official, later identified by the Toronto Metro and Associated Press as Trump’s aide and son-in-law Kushner, called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to “urge” him to persuade Trump against pulling out of NAFTA, which Trump has previously called the “worst trade deal ever.”
“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. “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.”
But a White House official told the AP it was Trudeau’s office that called Kushner on April 26 after seeing reports that Trump wanted to withdraw from NAFTA. Kushner reportedly told his Canadian counterparts that Trudeau and Trump needed to discuss the matter themselves. Canadian aides asked when Trudeau should call and Kushner phoned them back later that evening to say Trump was ready to talk.
Trump has cited the call from Trudeau, and a similar conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, as influencing him to attempt to make a better trade deal, rather than tearing up the agreement.
“I like both these gentlemen very much,” Trump said later. “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.’”