U.S. governors met for their annual meeting in Rhode Island on Friday for talks that centered mostly on health care and the North American Free Trade agreement.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended as a guest speaker, along with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Trudeau told the governors not to take “politically tempting shortcuts” when the two countries renegotiate NAFTA and emphasized the importance of the trading relationship between the United States and Canada.
Trudeau warned that protectionist measures could lead to “a race to the bottom, where all sides lose.”
The Canadian prime minister met individually with several U.S. governors, including those from Kentucky, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Iowa, to highlight the importance of U.S.-Canadian trade.
Trudeau said Canada is America’s “biggest, best customer,” pointing out that Canada buys more from the United States than it does from China, Japan and Britain combined. He also noted that more than 75 percent of Canada’s exports and 98 percent of its oil exports go to the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, calling it a bad deal for U.S. companies and workers.
In addressing the group of governors, Pence also spoke about NAFTA and said the Trump administration was looking forward to renegotiating the deal in a way that will equally benefit the United States and Canada.
Pence focused much of his speech on health care reform, as the Senate considers a bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, passed during the administration of former President Barack Obama. He said Trump believes the latest health care reform bill is the “right bill at the right time to begin the end of Obamacare.”
Pence urged governors to support the bill before the Senate and said he and Trump hope lawmakers can take it up as soon as next week. “We believe the Senate health care bill begins to make the president’s vision a reality,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has planned for a vote next week on the revised legislation but could have a difficult time getting the 50 “yes” votes needed for passage.
At least two Republicans have said they will vote against the bill, and several others are noncommittal. Republicans control the Senate by a 52-48 margin and cannot afford to lose more than two of their own votes as Democrats are expected to remain united against the bill.
Trump tweeted on Friday from Paris, where he attended Bastille Day celebrations, “After all of these years of suffering thru Obamacare, Republican Senators must come through as they have promised.”
Several Republican governors told Pence on Friday that they have concerns about the health care bill, including Ohio’s John Kasich and Nevada’s Brian Sandoval.