Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with President Donald Trump for the first time on Monday, Feb. 13. The meeting aimed to bridge the gap in style and strategy between the two leaders, as well as continue to foster a warm relationship between Canada and the United States.
At the top of the Prime Minister’s agenda was ensuring that Canada’s ties with the United States remain intact. Many of President Trump’s policies, particularly his stance on trade, are chilling for Canada, which counts on trade with the United States for about 25 percent of its gross domestic product.
A statement issued after the two leaders met suggested that Mr. Trudeau had largely succeeded in achieving his goals. It states, “We affirm the importance of building on this existing strong foundation for trade and investment and further deepening our relationship, with the common goal of strengthening the middle class.”
In the statement, the two leaders also pledged to continue border security programs that began during the Obama administration, and even endorsed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance which President Trump had previously questioned. “We are indispensable allies in the defense of North America and other parts of the world, through NATO and other multilateral efforts,” the joint statement said.
The cabinet ministers who traveled with Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday had prepared for meetings with their American counterparts by emphasizing the importance of the cross-border relationship to Canadians. Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, reminded Trump administration officials that trade between the two countries is currently roughly in balance, and that Canada is the largest buyer of American exports from 35 states.
If the president raised the questions of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, Prime Minister Trudeau was expected to repeat his earlier comments that Canada would welcome the move. However, such a step would be expected to test Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to internationalist principles if it appeared that Canada would have to abandon Mexico to protect its own interests.
The two leaders also met with several women who are chief executives of companies from both countries to announce that Canada and the United States would set up a cross-border council to advance women into executive roles, and to encourage entrepreneurship.
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