Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the White House Monday for what could be difficult trade and immigration talks with his political opposite, President Donald Trump.
A political odd couple, President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resolutely played up their similarities at their first meeting Monday, even as obvious differences lurked behind their public smiles. After their White House meeting, the North American neighbours emerged to hail their close ties, with Trump promising to “build upon our very historic friendship” and Trudeau noting the “special” bond between the countries.
Mr Trudeau gave Mr Trump a framed photograph taken in 1981 of the US president and the prime minister’s father, Pierre Trudeau,who received an award in New York City.
Trudeau is the third foreign leader received by the Republican billionaire since he took office on January 20, following meetings with Britain’s Theresa May and Japan’s Shinzo Abe.
Trade relations with the US are crucial for Canada. More than 75% of its exports head south of the border, while 18% of US exports are sent north.
The 45-year-old Canadian prime minister has pledged to speak “frankly and respectfully” with the new occupant of the White House.
“Canada will always stay true to the values that have made us this extraordinary country, a place of openness,” Trudeau said Friday in Yellowknife, the capital of the country’s Northwest Territories.
Trudeau later acknowledged that there are times when the two countries differ. But he said, “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.”
But it was hard to escape their contrasting worldviews. Speaking to reporters, Trump defended his restrictive refugee and immigration orders, saying that “we cannot let the wrong people in.” Trudeau, on the other hand, said Canada continues to “pursue our policies of openness.”
Meanwhile, the President said America will be “tweaking” its trade relationship with Canada, unlike its trade ties with Mexico, where it faces a more severe situation.
He said: “We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We’ll be tweaking it. The pair do agree on the massive Keystone XL pipeline project, which would link Canada’s oil sands with US Gulf Coast refineries. The project had been blocked by Obama, but has been given the green light by Trump.
Another clue as to just how much significance Ottawa has placed on this first face-to-face meeting with the new American administration was the prime minister’s entourage.
Mr Trudeau brought five ministers with him to Washington, a who’s who of Canada’s top Cabinet members, as well as his most trusted senior aides.
The Canadian delegation will leave Washington having secured a few other commitments from the US. Those include commitments to collaborate on improving clean energy and enhancing efficiency at border crossings, to tackle Opioid epidemic traffic, and the creation of a Canada-US council geared towards promoting women-owned enterprises.