Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday to discuss trade, security, and the challenges faced by women in the workforce, among other issues.
Trudeau notably decided not to use the meeting as an opportunity to criticize Trump for his immigration policies publicly.
Trudeau praised the venue for having good weather by Canadian standards at this time of the year. “Any day I get to visit our southern neighbors is a good day in my book, particularly when it’s so nice and warm compared to what it is back home,” he said, referring to the winter storm currently hitting the Atlantic provinces.
The Chicago Tribune played up the contrast between the two leaders going into the meeting:
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.
The Tribune further highlighted Canadian fears about Trump’s possible renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), noting that “75 percent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., while 18 percent of U.S. exports go to Canada.”
Initial appearances would suggest that the meeting went well. Trudeau found himself seated next to Ivanka Trump at a U.S.-Canada roundtable discussion of women in the workforce, which “addressed topics such as childcare for working mothers, recruiting and retaining women in the workplace and encouraging a higher level of female entrepreneurship,” according to the White House.
Trump opened the meeting be declaring that “to create economic growth and well-paying jobs we must assure the economy is a place where women can work and thrive.” Fox Business reports the roundtable was suggested by Trudeau’s staff, while Ivanka Trump assembled influential women for the meeting and developed the list of discussion topics
The White House released a joint statement from Trump and Trudeau recognizing “our profound shared economic interests,” the importance of “cooperation to promote economic growth,” and the need for continuing cooperation on regulatory and trade issues.
“Given our shared focus on infrastructure investments, we will encourage opportunities for companies in both countries to create jobs through those investments. In particular, we look forward to the expeditious completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which will serve as a vital economic link between our two countries,” said the statement. The Canadians have politely expressed something less than complete satisfaction with the pace of progress on Detroit’s end of this project.
The joint statement also promised cooperation on energy and environmental issues, including the Keystone XL pipeline, and expressed mutual concern about border security, cybersecurity, and the “increase in opioid-related deaths.” The United States expressed appreciation for Canada’s military contributions, “including the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIS and in Latvia.”
At their joint press conference on Monday, the most interesting exchange dealt with President Trump’s executive order on immigration, and his commitment to protect the borders of the United States. Trump defended his policy by noting, “I’m just doing what I said I would do when we won by a very, very large Electoral College vote – and I knew that was going to happen.”
“I knew this is what people were wanting and that wasn’t the only reason. That wasn’t my only thing that we did so well on. But that was something that was very important,” he explained.
“We’re actually taking people that are criminals – very, very hardened criminals in some cases, with a tremendous track record of abuse and problems – and we’re getting them out,” Trump said of his more aggressive stance toward violations of American immigration law.
“I said ‘we will get the criminals out, the drug lords, the gang members.’ We’re getting them out,” said Trump, thanking his national security team for their efforts.
“I said at the beginning we’re going to get the bad ones, the really bad ones,” he said, predicting that “everyone is going to be extremely happy” with the result – and indeed, “a lot of people are very happy right now.”
Trudeau has been under considerable pressure back home to condemn President Trump’s executive order temporarily suspending visas from seven countries with particularly severe security challenges, but didn’t issue such a condemnation at the joint press conference.
“There are times when we have differed in our approaches, and that’s always been done firmly and respectfully,” he said.
“The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern,” Trudeau said, responding to questions primarily concerning Syrian refugees.