Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will use his first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday to propose broad areas of co-operation to boost jobs and continental security – ranging from joint infrastructure projects to cyber and energy security and possibly Canada joining the U.S. missile-defence shield.
After the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Trudeau is expected to have an exclusive private lunch with the President in the White House residence, a source said, who noted how hard the Prime Minister and his team have worked at outreach with the Trump administration.
"So this private lunch, on the second floor of the residence, is a big deal."
The highly anticipated White House meeting will include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and top White House aides such as chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Mr. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Trudeau will be joined by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
The two leaders will hold a joint press conference after the meeting is concluded.
A senior government official said the talks are not expected to produce concrete agreements, characterizing the get-together as an opportunity for both men to bond and to broach issues of bilateral trade, border security, Canada-U.S. defence policy and the fight against the Islamic State.
"We will find some broad themes that we can agree to work on over the next several months," the official said.
"But I think the expectation that we have agreed to 14 specific projects or whatever is unrealistic," the official said, speaking on background to The Globe and Mail. "It is more general, agreeing to work on things. Trying to strike themes we can work together on."
Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Trump will take part in roundtable talks on advancing women in the work force, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Sunday night.
In addition, officials say Canada envisions at least five broad areas in which the two countries could team up to create jobs and satisfy Mr. Trump's concerns about a secure United States: infrastructure spending on both sides of the border for projects such as rebuilding the electrical grid; increased energy integration through oil and natural-gas pipelines; increased border-security co-operation, such as preclearance of cargo; joint collaboration on cybersecurity; and revamping the North American Aerospace Defence Command to include Canada's participation in the U.S. missile-defence shield.
"NORAD is the only joint-command relationship in the world. And we have to modernize it and whether that is missile [defence] or whether it is cybersecurity, it is an opportunity to begin to try to draw them out in terms of their thinking [on reforming NORAD] before we finalize our defence policy review," the senior official said.
"There is an awful lot of discussion around cybersecurity as being a growing issue. On homeland security, part of the discussion is to share with them – which I am not sure they are aware of – the degree to which we co-operate day in and day out," the official said.
The key issue in the Oval Office talks and over lunch will be the President's plan to renegotiate the 1994 North American free-trade agreement. Mr. Trudeau will use that opportunity to make the case that the United States and Canada have integrated supply chains and prosper from $886-billion of two-way trade.
In his talks with the President, Mr. Trudeau is expected to bring up bilateral areas in which both countries can make inroads – from cleaning up the Great Lakes to thinning the Canada-U.S. border.
"There are things we do that aren't part of NAFTA that are purely bilateral issues and they are not necessarily about tariffs," the official said. "Maybe we can extend preclearance to cargo or maybe we can do some joint infrastructure projects together. There are all sorts of things like that that aren't part of NAFTA that we can work on."
But again, the official stressed the talks will be broad in range because Mr. Trump's trade team – Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross and prospective U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer – have not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
"They [Mr. Trudeau-Mr. Trump] are going to be reluctant to get into much details because those are going to be part of ongoing discussion [when NAFTA talks begin]. What they will agree I think is that our trading relationship is more or less in balance and therefore anything that disrupts the Canada-U.S. relationship would not be good for either country," the official said.
Former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, now president and chief executive officer of the blue-chip Business Council of Canada, said the most important result coming out of the meeting is the personal relationship the Prime Minister can establish with Mr. Trump.
"He has got to build a rapport with the President," Mr. Manley said. "He will want to leave with some understanding of where the President wants to go on NAFTA and at what pace."
Mr. Trudeau has no plans to criticize the President's controversial immigration ban on Syrian refugees or citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries – now the subject of a battle between the White House and U.S. courts – but it is possible he will discuss the confusion and difficulty encountered by some Canadians.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has written an open letter to Mr. Trudeau demanding that he complain to the President about Canadian citizens or permanent residents that have been impacted by the ban.
"There have been at least five publicly known recent accounts of valid Canadian travellers being denied entry to the United States," Mr. Mulcair wrote in a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail. "We would ask you to draw specific attention to the cases of the Canadian families and individuals prevented from entering the United States in order to gain assurances from President Trump that this will not happen again."
The Official Opposition Conservatives have opted for a different strategy than the NDP, preferring to offer their support to Mr. Trudeau as he undertakes the important task of trying to develop a trustful relationship with a mercurial President.
"The Prime Minister should go into this meeting to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negatives," Tory foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said. "There are all sorts of things Canada and the U.S. can co-operate on … so we have to emphasize similar views on domestic and foreign policy."
Mr. Manley, who helped promote border co-operation after 9/11, said Mr. Trudeau needs to reinforce the high level of sharing of security information between the two countries, including on refugees coming into Canada.
He is a strong proponent of Canada joining the U.S. missile shield as a way to modernize NORAD.
"If the North Koreans are able to fling missiles at the United States, there is no reason to think they couldn't go off course and miss Seattle and hit Vancouver," he said. "Absolutely we should be in their missile defence because it is in both countries' interest. It's not a favour to them, it's a favour to us."