Donald Trump is a willing listener ‘you can work with,’ claims Trudeau
Trudeau complimented Trump but downplayed his importance to the Canada-U.S. relationship in an interview at the University of Toronto on Thursday, saying that the U.S. president “knows how to interact socially on a very effective level.”
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WASHINGTON—According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Donald Trump is a willing listener with good social skills who keeps his word and is open to changing his mind when presented with opposing positions.
Trudeau, who has made a determined effort to avoid angering the mercurial president, offered his complimentary assessment in a public interview with two New York Times journalists at the University of Toronto on Thursday.
He also continued his parallel effort to downplay Trump’s importance to the broader relationship between the U.S. and Canada. Though the president is powerful, Trudeau said his government is also engaging American states, cities and businesses that are continuing to adopt “progressive” policies on climate change and other issues even when Trump does not.
Some members of the audience chuckled when Trudeau said Trump “knows how to interact socially on a very effective level” and then praised the president’s listening.
“I can understand the laughter,” he said, “but there’s a lot of politicians who have a deep vested interest in being right all the time. And therefore close themselves sometimes off to facts or evidence or differing opinions. What I’ve found from this president is: he will listen to arguments made, he will look at the ensemble of facts and proposals … he will be open to shifting his position.”
Despite their differences, Trudeau said, “I’ve always found that whenever he has made an engagement to me or a commitment to me on the phone or in person, he has followed through on that. And that’s someone you can work with.”
He acknowledged that he has been forced to adjust to Trump’s unusual operating style. Their phone calls, he said, happen with far less notice than his calls with ex-president Barack Obama. And he said Trump’s tweets present “a new wrinkle in international diplomacy,” forcing him to consider whether a Canadian reaction is warranted.
He suggested that he sometimes learns about the tweets in his morning briefing.
“We are not going to respond to sabre-rattling with more sabre -rattling,” he said. “We are going to stick to facts and being reasonable about things.”
Trudeau, who has used former prime minster Brian Mulroney as an adviser on handling Trump and the U.S. government, praised the opposition Conservatives as “thoughtful” and “very helpful” on the U.S. file.
Trudeau said there is a “100 per cent” chance that there will continue to be a North American Free Trade Agreement next year. Asked if it will exist in four years, though, he said, “Who knows?”