Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Friday there was no surprise from his perspective in U.S. President Donald Trump's statements lashing out against trade with Canada, but that officials behind the scenes were open to discussions.
Morneau, meeting with G20 colleagues in Washington, said trade will continue to be an important subtext at such meetings, because everyone recognizes the importance of reducing uncertainties in the outlook for global growth. Currency manipulation had not been discussed so far, he added.
Canada has launched a lobbying tour across the United States in a bid to counter a pledge by Trump to renegotiate NAFTA, but the U.S. president renewed pressure this week with verbal attacks against Canada's dairy, lumber and energy sectors.
Morneau said he has not focused on the "those specific words" by Trump, saying Ottawa is concentrating on discussions with U.S. officials at the federal, state and local levels, where he said they have been "very positively received."
"I don't spend my time trying to parse" who is in control of trade policy, Morneau told reporters, noting that Canadian ministers are trying to speak to everyone involved with a consistent message that trade is good for creating jobs in both countries.
He said U.S. administration officials were open to the discussions and willing to listen, but that it was clear they want to make sure the trade relationships are fair to the United States.
Morneau also argued that Canada was the most secure and reliable source of energy for the United States and that Canadian oil exports were an important source of U.S. refining jobs, adding he sees no source of friction with the United States on energy.
Morneau said there is consensus among G20 policymakers on the importance of trade as a positive factor in global economic growth, but that every country needs to feel the advantages of trade in order to buy into the benefits of free trade.
Asked about Canada's housing market, Morneau said there remained a role for the federal government in acting as a convenor for housing policymakers on all levels, to improve data collection and analysis, and to ensure that everyone is acting within the rules of tax and regulation.
But he said the federal government was not even considering a foreign buyers tax at the federal level because different regional markets needed different responses.