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Canada's Trudeau defends NAFTA, says there are 'always' opportunities to improve deals

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 13, 2017.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 13, 2017.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that both the United States and Canada depend on the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal repeatedly slammed by President Donald Trump.

Still, he said he looks forward to working with Trump on expanding collaboration and "improving" the deal.

"There's always opportunities to improve trade deals. NAFTA has been improved a dozen times over the past 20 years," Trudeau told reporters at YPO Edge, a summit held in Vancouver, Canada of nearly 3,000 leaders from around the world. "We look forward to sitting down with President Trump to talk about how we can make sure that we are helping the middle class in both of our countries get good jobs and opportunities for themselves and their kids."

"One of the central issues I've spoken repeatedly with the president and his administration on is the fact that it is good for the millions of jobs on both sides of the border between Canada and the United States that we have a close trading relationship."

Trump has called for a renegotiation of NAFTA, the deal implemented in 1994 that helped to make Canada and Mexico two of America's crucial trading partners, saying it has harmed American workers. Still, he has heavily suggested that he thinks the U.S. gets a worse deal from its southern neighbor Mexico than from Canada.

"We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We'll be tweaking it. We'll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. It's a much less severe situation than what's taken place on the southern border," Trump said last month at a joint White House press conference with Trudeau.

Canada sends about 75 percent of its exports to the U.S. Canada was also the largest goods-export market for the U.S. in 2015, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

On Friday, Trudeau said the countries are "working together on expanding pre-clearance to strengthen security while also ensuring our businesses, our small business, our workers are able to benefit from the extraordinarily close collaboration, cooperation and even integration of our two economies."

Any major formal changes to NAFTA could take a while to happen.

Watch: Could Canada be Trump's next tax target?