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White House: Trump frustrated with lack of NAFTA progress with Canada

President Trump has grown frustrated with Canada on a lack of progress in crafting a new NAFTA agreement, says Marc Short, director of legislative affairs for the Trump administration. Short sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss reactions to the G-7 summit, the president’s focus on Canada and more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We get two views now on this recent confrontation between the U.S. and its allies.

    And we begin with the White House perspective.

    Marc Short is the director of legislative affairs.

    Marc Short, welcome back to the program.

  • Marc Short:

    Thanks for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Was this the president's intention, that this summit end up as it did?

  • Marc Short:

    No, I don't think so, Judy.

    I think, as you saw, the president at the summit actually said that his relationship with these members was on a scale of 0-10 a 10. He also had commented that our ultimate goal here is to lower all trade barriers, so there would be no more barriers and no more tariffs.

    I think what was unfortunate is feeling like they had had a good summit, the president was headed to an incredibly important international summit with the North Korean dictator, and after he was wheels up, that the prime minister of Canada decided to make the comments that he did.

    I think that is what was frustrating to the team.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But even the president's allies, friends are saying there is no plan out there for free trade, that what we are hearing right now from the administration is that the U.S. needs to get its trade barriers up because it doesn't feel it's being dealt with fairly by other countries.

    My question is, why did the president have to be so personal with Prime Minister Trudeau, the criticism, even today, of Canada and even of Germany and the other allies? These are America's allies.

  • Marc Short:

    They are. And they have been historically strong allies and continue — will be continuing.

    But I think, Judy, the president looks at this and says that his negotiations on NAFTA have not gone sufficiently successfully with Canada. There continue to be a lot of disagreement about the imposition of things, that we're looking to level the playing field.

    And so the president has grown frustrated with the delays of Canada. And I think he's frustrated as well that we haven't made more progress in actually lowering the barriers, so that more American goods can be exported to Canada.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, one of the things, for example, the president has focused on again and again is dairy, the dairy sales area.

    We — I — we looked at this today. Dairy right now makes up only, as I understand it, two-tenths of 1 percent of the overall value of goods that are exported to Canada. So, why the fixation on that? Why not look at the larger picture, the larger relationship?

  • Marc Short:

    One of the reasons it's two-tenths of 1 percent is because Canada imposes tariffs that range between 250 percent and 300 percent on cheese, butter and milk.

    What we are saying is, lower those tariffs, so that we can actually export dairy goods to Canada. Our agricultural community has a relationship with Canada, but it could be stronger. We could be exporting more. That is what the president is fighting for, is for more access for our goods and services.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me quote something that Senator John McCain said. I'm sure you are familiar with it.

    He today said — he said: "To our allies, Americans are pro-free trade. We are supporters of these alliances that are based on 70 years of shared values. We stand with you, even if our president doesn't."

  • Marc Short:

    Well, I think that the president, again, has supported trying to get to free trade. He has supported these relationships. We wish John McCain well, but I think that the president has continued to advocate for things the American people believe.

    And it's why he was elected president, Judy. He campaigned on a promise that he was going to deliver for the workers of America. It is why he won so many of the Midwestern states, and it's exactly what he is delivering on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me quote from The Wall Street Journal editorial page, a friend of this president, of other conservatives, editorializing today that disruption isn't enough, it says.

    It went on to say the president needs to come up with a trade strategy, which they don't see. They say — they say they don't think the president is serious about talking about zero tariffs.

    So this, again, is a friend of the president looking at what has happened and saying they don't get it.

  • Marc Short:

    Judy, there's a lot of people who have questioned the president's ability to deliver on the economy, and he has.

    It is why we actually have the lowest unemployment we have had in 50 years, lowest ever for Hispanic Americans, lowest ever for African-Americans, lowest unemployment claims in 44 years. The revenue is surging into the United States government, the largest surplus on record in April.

    The president has the economy going in the right direction. There were a lot of skeptics who said he couldn't do that. They said we wouldn't see this 3 percent GDP growth again. We have averaged that the last three quarters. It will even better this quarter.

    So, those same skeptics are now questioning his trade policy. The president, I think, deserves our ability to say, you have delivered for us on the economy. You deserve the leverage to negotiate better deals, because he feels like for 70 years, to the point John McCain that is making, for 70 years, in many cases, we provide a lot of things to our partners overseas, and as far as their national security, and they have taken advantage of us on trade.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, thank you.

  • Marc Short:

    Judy, thanks for having me.

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