Ottawa looks to Kushner, other U.S. trade officials to resolve medical equipment dispute | CBC News

The Trudeau government is looking to the relationships it established during NAFTA negotiations to resolve the new urgent dispute over personal protective equipment with the United States.White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 2 in Washington. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)The Trudeau government is looking to the relationships it established during NAFTA negotiations to resolve the urgent dispute over personal protective equipment with the United States. According to senior sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Canadian politicians at different levels, and of different political stripes, will and have been reaching out to contacts in the U.S. to make Canada’s case to keep the flow of essential goods moving.At the core of this push, sources say, is the prime minister’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, who is trying to leverage her relationship with the president’s son-in-law and special advisor Jared Kushner.  The overtures come after U.S. President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force Minnesota-based 3M to prioritize orders from the U.S. government for N95 respirators, at the expense of foreign orders. The protective masks are used by front-line health care workers battling the novel coronavirus. During NAFTA negotiations, Telford developed a close working relationship with Kushner, to the point that they often exchange text messages. In the U.S., Kushner has been criticized after he was assigned key responsibilities within the White House coronavirus task force.  Despite having zero experience in public health policy, and no experience with military operations, Kushner is helping with the marshalling of resources.  Kushner connection could benefit Ottawa One source tells CBC News, the Canadians see the Kushner connection as one that can be used to Ottawa’s advantage.  A second source says this is about the health and safety of Canadians, so all key relationships that have been developed over the years to resolve this are being utilized. That second source says Canada’s new ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman, is a main point of contact right now with the Trump administration, as is Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.  Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) Kushner played a key role in finalizing NAFTA negotiations with both Mexico and Canada, as he is reported to have influence with President Trump in ways that other members of the administration do not. The White House is standing by Kushner, after he questioned how some U.S. governors and mayors are handling the crisis, and claimed that the national stockpile of emergency medical equipment is not for use by states. During Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing in Washington, Kushner said “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile.” “It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” However, a U.S. federal government website clearly stated that in fact, the equipment is meant to supplement supplies for individual states.  Within 24 hours, the language on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website was changed to reflect what Kushner had said.  Team Canada Strategy Ontario Premier Doug Ford reached out to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to express his frustration with the White House over its request that medical equipment manufactured in the U.S. not be exported to Canada.  Ford played a similar role during NAFTA negotiations, developing relationships with key members of the Trump administration, including former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday, he expects to have a phone call with President Trump. In the meantime, members of cabinet and other Canadian leaders are being asked to reach out to U.S. connections to ensure Canada’s point is made. 

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