Canada’s PM Trudeau meets with Trump at White House

World Today

President Donald Trump welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a polar opposite to Donald Trump in almost every way, joined the new U.S. president at the White House Monday keen to build a relationship that doesn’t threaten trade.

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

Canada's PM Trudeau meets with Trump at White House

Canada's PM Trudeau meets with Trump at White House

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a polar opposite to Donald Trump in almost every way, joined the new U.S. president at the White House Monday keen to build a relationship that doesn't threaten trade. CGTN's Owen Fairclough reports.

Trudeau arrived on a blustery morning, and Trump greeted him with a firm handshake.

“We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We’ll be tweaking it,” Trump told reporters of the trade relationship. “We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taking place on the southern border.”

At a joint news conference after their meetings, the two emphasized their shared goals. Trump pledged to work with Canada “in pursuit of our many shared interests.” Trudeau spoke of a special bond and the “deep abiding respect” between the two countries, though he also said that “relationships between neighbors are pretty complex.”

While the two leaders stressed shared interests, their contrasting views were also on display. Responding to questions from reporters, Trump defended his 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.”

Trudeau later noted that there have been times when the two countries “have differed in our approaches.” 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.”

On trade, Trump said he would be “tweaking” the relationship with Canada, but said “it’s a much less severe situation than what’s happening on the southern border.” He also noted the “outstanding trade relationship with Canada.” Those were likely welcome comments for Canadians concerned that they could be hurt as Trump targets Mexico in a re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

US-CANADA TRADE CHART

At a roundtable discussion with female executives from the United States and Canada, Trump and Trudeau announced a task force focused on women in the workforce. Trump said it was important to ensure the economy is a place where “women can work and thrive.” Trudeau stressed that women have had to overcome barriers to succeed in business.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump was in attendance at the meeting and helped recruit participants and set the agenda. The high-profile meeting is evidence of her rising policy influence.

Trudeau, age 45, and Trump, age 70, have vastly different outlooks of the world.

Trudeau is a liberal who champions free trade and has welcomed 40,000 Syrian refugees. He calls himself a feminist and his Cabinet is 50 percent women. Trump has few women in his Cabinet. He has taken a protectionist stance on trade and wants to crack down on the inflow of migrants and refugees.

Trump’s order to temporarily halt entry into the U.S. by people from seven predominantly Muslim nations, which is tied up in court, might come up during his bilateral meeting with Trudeau. But Trudeau is expected to focus on common economic interests.

Relations with the U.S. are crucial as more than 75 percent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., while 18 percent of U.S. exports go to Canada. There are fears among Canadians that they could be hurt as Trump targets Mexico in a re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau’s close cooperation with Trump and the first daughter on women in business could ease some worries among Canadians that the U.S. president will enact protectionist measures that could hurt the Canadian economy. It could also alleviate some fears that Trump will be as combative with Trudeau as he has been with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.

Trudeau has been preparing for the Trump meeting for months. He will also meet with legislative leaders on Capitol Hill.