Trudeau, Trump speak at White House about strengthening ties
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House on Monday for his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Here's what you missed from the the events in the U.S. capital on Monday
- Mr. Trudeau won personal assurances that the U.S. only wants to tweak Canada-related provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Trump added that he is less worried about Canada-U.S. trade than he is about Mexico.
- The two countries launched a task force on women in business at an event featuring Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
- Canada and the U.S. vowed to tighten their ties on energy and singled out the Keystone XL pipeline as an important infrastructure project.
- In a joint statement, the two leaders promised closer co-operation on border security and defence, and affirmed the long-standing economic ties between the countries. “Both of us are committed to bringing prosperity and opportunity to our people,” Mr. Trump said alongside Mr. Trudeau at a news conference.
- Asked at the news conference about Mr. Trump’s immigration ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr. Trudeau said Canada’s policy of welcoming refugees balanced security with openness, and those policies would continue. He declined to criticize Mr. Trump’s ban. “The last thing Canadians want is for me to lecture another country on how they should govern,” he said.
- The two leaders also promised to work together to combat opioid trafficking and opioid-related deaths, which have been on the rise in Canada in recent years.
How the day unfolded
The Prime Minister set off for Washington from Ottawa on Monday morning, his flight delayed slightly as the nation's capital shook off a heavy weekend snowfall.
Mr. Trudeau rolled up the driveway to the West Wing three minutes before 11 am. Mr. Trump stepped out to greet him in the doorway, and they briefly exchanged greetings and a handshake before heading inside. A minibus full of Canadian cabinet ministers and political staff pulled up behind and everyone trooped off. Meanwhile, the leaders had a photo op in the Oval Office.
Around 12:15 p.m., Mr. Trump and Mr. Trudeau joined female executives for a round-table discussion on women in the work force. There, the countries announced a joint task force on women in business and entrepreneurship ( more on this below). Mr. Trudeau spoke about the need to remove barriers for women in business:
Whenever I sit down with a woman executive, I know that she has had to overcome significant barriers that exist and therefore is likely to have greater insight into how to ease those barriers for others, but also be a formidable contributor to the success of business and our economy. For me, it’s not just about doing the right thing, but understanding that women in leadership can be a very powerful leverage for success for business, for communities and for our entire economy.
At the round table, Mr. Trump welcomed Mr. Trudeau and pointed out a picture of him with Mr. Trudeau's father, Pierre, taken at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in 1981:
I am honoured to be here with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and whose father I knew and respected greatly. He gave me a picture of myself and your father. A great picture.
After the round table ended, Mr. Trump and Mr. Trudeau walked to lunch along the colonnade around the Rose Garden. Their respective staffs and cabinets walked out before them.
The two leaders spoke with reporters at a news conference in the afternoon. Mr. Trudeau, when asked about Mr. Trump's immigration ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, declined to criticize it. Mr. Trudeau instead focused on border security and economic ties between the two countries:
No other neighbours in the entire world are as fundamentally linked as we are. ... Canadians and Americans alike share a common history, as well as people-to-people ties that make us completely and totally integrated.
Mr. Trudeau ended his day in Washington by meeting House Speaker Paul Ryan at and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The issues that were at stake
Getting off on the right foot: Monday's meeting brought together two unlikely partners: A pro-free-trade liberal who helped Canada welcome thousands of Syrian refugees, and a protectionist conservative who slammed the brakes on immigration in his first week in office. As he did during the election, when he refrained from criticizing Mr. Trump directly, Mr. Trudeau and his government have taken a pragmatic approach to the new relationship with Washington. He instead seems intent on convincing Mr. Trump that Canada can help advance his economic agenda.
Trade: The key issue on the table was Mr. Trump's plan to renegotiate the 1994 North American free-trade agreement. Asked about NAFTA at a news conference, Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that Canadians were anxious about the future of the trilateral trade deal, but Mr. Trump said the U.S. trade relationship was very different and "less severe" than its relationship with Mexico, the main focus of his efforts to overhaul NAFTA. Mr. Trump has remarked that NAFTA needs an extra "f" – for free and fair trade – and that phrase made it into the joint statement from the two leaders from Washington on Monday:
The United States and Canada also recognize the importance of co-operation to promote economic growth, provide benefits to our consumers and businesses, and advance free and fair trade. We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards.
Defence and security: Mr. Trudeau's visit aimed to sound out what the Trump administration expects of Canada on defence. The leaders' joint statement included a promise to "modernize and broaden" the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and work together on cybersecurity initiatives. The statement also affirmed support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance Mr. Trump has previously said is obsolete but has more recently come to support.
We are indispensable allies in the defense of North America and other parts of the world, through NATO and other multilateral efforts. Our troops have time and again fought together and sacrificed their lives for our shared values.
Immigration and borders: The joint statement made no mention of Mr. Trump's controversial immigration ban on refugees or immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. When asked about that ban by reporters, Mr. Trudeau said Canadians didn't expect him to come to the United States and criticize how Americans should govern themselves. The two leaders put their emphasis on border security, promising to expand pre-clearance policies for cargo shipments travel between the two countries and suggesting future measures to "integrate our border operations." Asked about immigration policy at an afternoon news conference, Mr. Trudeau said "security and immigration need to work very well together."
Trudeau and Trump on women in business
One of Monday's events was a roundtable discussion with the two leaders about women in the work force. The event highlighted the rising policy influence of first daughter Ivanka Trump, who has stressed her commitment to issues like child care.
The two countries launched an initiative on Monday called the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, a task force focused on women in business and entrepreneurship. Ivanka Trump – who has been a vocal advocate for policies benefiting working women – helped craft the plan, the White House said in an announcement Monday that also said "President Trump has made women's empowerment a priority throughout the campaign." Ms. Trump attended Monday's roundtable, sitting beside Mr. Trudeau.
In their joint statement on the initiative, the two leaders stressed that supporting women in business was a priority:
It is a priority of both countries to ensure equal opportunities for women in the work force. We are committed to removing barriers to women’s participation in the business community and supporting women as they advance through it. ... We expect this initiative to promote the growth of women-owned enterprises and to further contribute to our overall economic growth and competitiveness, as well as the enhanced integration of our economies.
A senior government source cited by The Canadian Press said the idea originally came from Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister, who spoke to the White House about the idea.
A who's who
Mr. Trudeau was accompanied in Washington by several of his top-ranking cabinet ministers:
- Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland
- Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan
- Finance Minister Bill Morneau
- Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
- Transport Minister Marc Garneau
Ms. Freeland, Mr. Sajjan and Mr. Morneau were all in Washington last week to meet Trump administration officials and lay the groundwork for Mr. Trudeau's visit. Here's some more background on what they said and did there.
On the U.S. side, several of Mr. Trump's cabinet ministers and advisers were at the White House meeting:
- Attorney-General Jeff Sessions
- Chief strategist Stephen Bannon
- Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner
- Acting deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon
Mr. Trump's proposed Commerce Secretary and the architect of his NAFTA policy, Wilbur Ross, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
Did Americans care about this meeting?
While for Canadians, the Trudeau-Trump tête-à-tête was the most highly-anticipated bilateral meeting since the free trade talks of the 1980s – $2-billion worth of daily business with our largest trading partner is on the line, after all – for Americans, it barely registered.
The story of the day in Washington was, instead, the position of Mr. Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who held secret talks with Russian officials about sanctions in that country. Late Monday, Mr. Flynn resigned from his position.
For the most part, American media were content to use wire copy to set up Mr. Trump's visit with his ally to the north. The few original pieces in U.S. publications have tended toward the explanatory, as reporters tried to hastily fill in their readers on who this tall, dark-haired guy from Canada is, and why Canadians seemed to care so much about the meeting.
In a piece headlined "Everything you need to know about Justin Trudeau," ABC stuck to the most salient points in Mr. Trudeau's biography: He once appeared in a made-for-TV movie about the First World War and takes a lot of selfies. The ABC piece also claimed Mr. Trudeau spent "part of his young adulthood" at 24 Sussex Drive when his father was prime minister (the younger Mr. Trudeau was actually 12 years old in 1984, when Trudeau père resigned). A CNN story referred to Mr. Trudeau as a "Liberal superhero," and helpfully reminded readers that Mr. Trudeau was once a nightclub bouncer, before segueing into a roundup of his gaffes and controversies: The time he manhandled one MP and elbowed another; his gushing tribute to former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro; and the time he was berated last month at a town hall by angry voters.
For Trudeau: On Thursday and Friday, the Prime Minister will be in France to speak at the European Parliament and Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The meeting will affirm the two nations' shared values in the Trump era, including support for free trade, Germany's ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnedt, told The Canadian Press last week.
For North America: There's no schedule yet for NAFTA renegotiation talks, but they could begin soon. In the meantime, Mr. Trump has also said he'll meet with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, to discuss trade, immigration and his planned wall along the Mexican border.
With reports from Adrian Morrow, Robert Fife, Evan Annett, Associated Press and The Canadian Press
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