U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ottawa Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The trip comes as hardship is mounting for Canadian farmers after China stopped buying key agricultural exports from Canada in the wake of Ottawa’s arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The United States alleges she helped the company violate U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
This is Mr. Pompeo’s first visit to Ottawa since he took the helm of the State Department in April, 2018.
It takes place as a trade war between China and the U.S. escalates and ahead of the late-August Group of Seven summit of major industrialized countries.
Canadian officials said talks are expected to include the plight of two Canadians detained by China for eight months in what critics call “hostage diplomacy,” as well as the unfolding crisis in Hong Kong, where an estimated 300,000 Canadians and 85,000 Americans live.
The future of Ukraine – still fighting a war with Russian-backed rebels in the eastern portion of its territory – will also be on the agenda, along with the future of Venezuela, where the U.S. is ramping up efforts to force out socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
“The discussions will focus on the broad and multi-faceted U.S.-Canada strategic partnership and identify opportunities to advance our shared goals, including returning democracy to Venezuela and the release of the two Canadian citizens arbitrarily detained by China,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
The visit comes less than four weeks before an expected federal election campaign begins and the Canadian government switches into caretaker mode.
China seized former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor shortly after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Ms. Meng on a U.S. extradition request. China also responded by ceasing purchases of Canadian commodities including canola seed, soybeans, pork and beef – a vanished market that is imposing rising economic pain on farmers here.
Mr. Pompeo was recently in Australia, where he urged Australians to stand up for themselves – rather than cave – in confrontations with China.
“Look, you can sell your soul for a pile of soybeans or you can protect your people,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Our mission is to do both. We think it’s possible to achieve both of those outcomes."
Last week Mr. Pompeo met in New York with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, a Politburo member and head of the Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs, in what was seen as an effort to reduce friction between the two countries.
Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor and former foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, said he hopes Mr. Pompeo discusses “the condition of the two Canadian diplomatic hostages,” referring to Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, and how “the U.S. is continuing to make representations to China on them.”
He said it’s important for Canada and the U.S. to discuss a co-ordinated response among Western countries to Hong Kong, where protests have continued for more than two months, sparked by the Beijing-backed administration’s attempt to green-light extraditions to mainland China.
Prof. Paris said Canada and the U.S. should co-ordinate as much as possible on Venezuela as well. Canada has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.