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The inaugural parade route is seen from the Canadian Embassy in Washington on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.Alex Panetta/The Canadian Press

It was an inauguration celebration designed to show off Canada's charms: an outdoor Beavertails stand, a poutine bar and endless bottles of Molson Canadian beer, all before noon.

The point was to remind the United States that although we may have different culinary delicacies, Canada is one of its best allies – so come on in, and enjoy a cheese curd doused in gravy, or two. With 1,800 expected guests, the Canadian inauguration party is always one of the best-attended in Washington.

But partygoers from both sides of the border at the Canadian embassy's "inauguration tailgate" in Washington sat in silence, without clapping, as President Donald Trump delivered a protectionist speech that promised to put Americans first on every front.

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It was a reminder, perhaps, that it's going to take more just than a great party to win over the new administration.

"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families," Mr. Trump said in his speech, his face projected onto giant TV screens throughout the embassy.

"We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs."

Canadian officials attending the event put a positive spin on Mr. Trump's hard line, arguing that close historical ties and an integrated economy meant Canada would not be a target. Many were in town to meet with their American counterparts to begin the process of finding common ground.

The President's adviser, Newt Gingrich, told The Globe and Mail that Canada is in a "unique position" when it comes to Mr. Trump's protectionist sentiment.

"So much of our trade is interrelated, so much of our production, etc. And a lot of the things he wants to do are actually pro-Canadian, in terms of public works projects, infrastructure and things like that," Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, said as he made his way into the embassy party.

"Canada may be the least affected country in the world."

Minutes after Mr. Trump's speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his signature campaign line about the middle class in a statement congratulating the President.

"Together, we benefit from robust trade and investment ties, and integrated economies, that support millions of Canadian and American jobs. We both want to build economies where the middle class, and those working hard to join it, have a fair shot at success," Mr. Trudeau said.

Canada's delegation to Washington included Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, her parliamentary secretary, retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and several of her MPs also travelled to Washington for the embassy party.

Mr. Carr, who reiterated the government's support for the Keystone XL pipeline, said a crucial part of representing Canada is to develop relationships and friendships.

"Whenever there's a change of administration, it's all that much more important to be very aggressive in reaching out to people," he said in an interview before Mr. Trump's speech.

"We're not starting from scratch, by the way."

Mr. Carr said the embassy's prime location between Capitol Hill and the White House, the only embassy with a view of the inaugural parade route, is a testament to the importance of the relationship between the countries.

"Where this embassy is located, and what it is able to observe, if a building could talk – is a metaphor for how close the relationship is between Canada and the United States," he said.

Mr. Sajjan said he wanted to highlight the fact that Canada is the most important foreign market in 35 states, with $2-billion in goods and services crossing the border each day.

"Not only do we want to continue that, we want to actually enhance that, so it's beneficial for both our nations," he said.

Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald, vice-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, said that even if Mr. Trump were to dissolve the North American free-trade agreement, the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement would kick in.

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