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Why Trudeau is going back to the U.S. to talk trade — and who he wants to reach

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will return to the United States next month to pitch the benefits of free trade with Canada to audiences that will include U.S. Democrats, a group that could be much more powerful by year’s end.

The three-day tour will see Trudeau visit the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago to deliver remarks and participate in a public talk with David Axelrod, who founded the institute after serving as one of Barack Obama’s closest advisers.

Trudeau might also, according to one senior government source, appear on Axelrod’s popular podcast the Axe Files — an important platform, especially in light of the upcoming mid-term elections. 

“Every Democrat in the U.S. listens to David,” the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “In a mid-term year it’s important to be talking directly to both parties.”

During another stop in California, Trudeau will also speak at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, the library and museum named for the Republican legend who signed the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in 1988.

“Canadians and Americans know we are all better off when we work together to grow the middle class, and create more opportunities for people on both sides of the border,” Trudeau said in a statement on Friday. 

Looming mid-terms

With public polls showing a substantial lead for their party, the Democrats currently have reason to believe they might retake control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in November’s mid-term elections. 

Such a swing would have implications for President Donald Trump’s agenda, but it might not move NAFTA off the table.

Democrats are not unabashed free-traders. As the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, Hillary Clinton said she wanted to renegotiate NAFTA, and her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, was and still is very eager to overhaul the deal. During Trudeau’s last visit to the United States, two Democratic members of the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee were spotted mingling with anti-NAFTA protesters.

While in California, Trudeau will also visit San Francisco, within earshot of Silicon Valley and the centre of the American technology sector. He will also speak at an event organized by the Business Council of the United States, an advisory group of executives that provides counsel to the U.S. government.

The council is currently chaired by Henry Kravis, a private-equity investor who Trump touted as a possible pick for treasury secretary. A government source says Kravis invited Trudeau to address the event. Kravis is married to Marie-Josee Kravis, a Canadian economist, consultant and philanthropist.

The sixth round of NAFTA talks are set to be held in Montreal next week, from Jan. 23-28. The Canadian government was recently said to be prepared for the United States to pull out of the deal, then Trump suggested he could be willing to extend talks until after a Mexican election in July.

Is this latest NAFTA round ‘do or die’ for the deal?8:33

CBC | Politics News