By Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta
HAVANA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday Canada would respond to concrete policy proposals that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump puts forward regarding renegotiating their trade rather than to theoretical ones. Trudeau has come under fire from the Canadian opposition for saying last week he was open to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the United States and Mexico, given Trump has threatened to scrap it.
Speaking at a news conference during his first official visit to Cuba, Trudeau refused to be drawn out on whether Canada might form a common position with Mexico over the deal.
“The fact is we are all of us committed to continuing to have strong and constructive relations with the new American administration,” he said. “We are going to work very much on a basis of responding to actual proposals and policies they put forward and not to every speculation that tends to come out.” Trudeau did say however he looked forward to chatting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto “in the coming days.”
The prime minister is visiting Cuba and Argentina to strengthen ties on his way to Peru to participate in the Nov. 17-18 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Canada has long been one of Cuba’s closest western allies, maintaining ties after its 1959 revolution.
Trudeau pegged trade between the two countries at $1 billion with “room to grow.”
Trudeau said earlier in the day during a lecture at Havana University that Canada would maintain its strong relationship Cuba even if that put it at odds with Trump, who has threatened to reverse the U.S.-Cuban detente. Seated in the front row of the lecture hall was Cuban President Raul Castro, who welcomed Trudeau to the island on Tuesday.
Canadian companies have significant investments in mining, power, oil and gas, agribusiness and tourism in Cuba.
During the lecture, Trudeau reminisced about his father’s visit to the island as prime minister 40 years ago, becoming friends with then President Fidel Castro, Raul’s elder brother. “I would very much have liked to sit down with Fidel – I had a wonderful meeting with him a number of years ago at my father’s funeral – but it was not to be on this tip,” Trudeau said, without elaborating why the meeting could not be arranged.
Fidel did meet on Tuesday with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang, who is also currently on an official trip to Cuba and official photos of the two leaders were released in state media.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Alan Crosby and Lisa Shumaker)