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BlackBerry's CEO is still optimistic about a NAFTA deal

BlackBerry ($BB) CEO John Chen is optimistic about a deal being reached on NAFTA despite escalating tiff between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Canadian company’s chief, who took over as CEO in 2013, said he was hopeful that tensions among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be resolved soon.

“I’m an optimist – I think it will happen. NAFTA is very important … for free trade agreements around the world,” Chen said in an interview with Yahoo Finance’s Market Movers. “NAFTA has been, from my vantage point, a very successful treaty for all three countries,” he added. “And the fact that we are renewing the discussion – I was very hopeful that we find a solution much earlier than we are today.”

BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen attends the launch event for the new Blackberry Classic smartphone in New York, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Chen’s comments amid a tit-for-tat tariff spat between the U.S. and both its northern and southern neighbors. On May 31, the Trump administration announced tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. Canada responded with tariffs on U.S. goods, followed by Mexico a few days later and an expected EU response in July.

Trump then took issue with Trudeau’s comments at the end of a testy G7 summit of leaders from Canada, France, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Italy in Quebec.

Most recently, Trump accused Canadians of buying shoes in the U.S. and smuggling them back to Canada.

“The tariffs to get common items back into Canada are so high that they have to smuggle them in,” Trump said on Tuesday. “They buy shoes, then they wear them. They scuff them up. They make them sound old or look old.”

The comments made little sense. Under NAFTA, the New York Times noted, “Canada does not impose tariffs on footwear made in the United States. Nor does the United States tax shoes imported from Canada.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) meets with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. Photo taken June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Matt Priest, the president and chief executive of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, stated that the president “seems misinformed about footwear trade. Canadians have no real reason to ‘smuggle’ their shoes because their government is already helping lower their costs through proper trade deals.”

In any case, the Canadian government is still holding out hope for a NAFTA deal. Also on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told the Canadian House of Commons’ international trade committee that a win-win-win deal that benefits all three countries was still possible.

“I’m hoping that the governments and the policymakers find a way to come together,” said Chen. “I think this is all part of the negotiation process. … I’m hoping [it’ll] be done pretty soon.”

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