OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said he would neither fight Donald Trump, nor support him, but understood the Republican's appeal for people fed up with politics, who he said had also voted for controversial Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Trudeau - who will visit Washington this week for talks with President Barack Obama - took office last November and will be in power when the next occupant of the White House takes over in January 2017.
Trudeau also suggested Trump might not be serious about policy platforms such as tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which could badly damage Canada's economy.
"I'm not going to pick a fight with Donald Trump right now. I'm not going to support him either, obviously," Trudeau told a live forum hosted by the Huffington Post when pressed to condemn the Republican.
Trudeau said he was watching the United States closely "to see how it deals with what is obviously a very real set of issues around frustration toward the body politic" which had been seen around the world.
He cited the case of Ford, the former populist mayor of Toronto who gained global notoriety for admitting to smoking crack while in office.
"We had a mayor called Rob Ford here for a while and there's a lot of people who didn't get it. But he tapped into a very real and legitimate sense that people had around who politicians were," said Trudeau.
The prime minister seemed less concerned when asked about Trump's proposals to temporarily bar Muslims from the United States and deport millions of illegal immigrants.
"Let's see if the things that he needed to say in order to secure the Republican nomination are the same things he chooses to say in order to win the Presidency, if that's what happens," he said.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrew Hay