Trump, Trudeau find com­mon ground

‘Amer­ica is deeply for­tu­nate to have a neigh­bour like Canada’

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

WASH­ING­TON — There was no talk of walls, only bridges as Don­ald Trump had an ami­able first meet­ing with his Cana­dian coun­ter­part Mon­day that sug­gested the north­ern neigh­bour would be spared the brunt of his na­tion­al­ist Amer­ica-first plat­form.

The U.S. pres­i­dent spoke about more trade with Canada, a faster-flow­ing bor­der, joint work on in­fra­struc­ture projects and re­forms to labour mo­bil­ity as he shelved the tough-talk­ing cam­paign rhetoric he di­rected daily at the south­ern neigh­bour, Mexico.

He was asked mul­ti­ple times dur­ing a news con­fer­ence with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau about their de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent

views on Mus­lim mi­gra­tion and Syr­ian refugees — and ev­ery time tip­toed around any pos­si­ble dis­agree­ments with Canada.

“Amer­ica is deeply for­tu­nate to have a neigh­bour like Canada,” Trump said at their White House news con­fer­ence.

“We have be­fore us the op­por­tu­nity to build even more bridges and bridges of co-op­er­a­tion and bridges of com­merce. Both of us are com­mit­ted to bring­ing greater pros­per­ity and op­por­tu­nity to our peo­ple.”

The ca­ma­raderie and re­as­sur­ing words could dis­pel some of the anx­i­ety that has lin­gered for months, with Trump rail­ing daily against trade deals but say­ing lit­tle about Canada — a top U.S. trad­ing part­ner and im­porter of nearly three-quar­ters of the goods Canada sells abroad.

Signs of that ca­ma­raderie in­cluded a joint state­ment so staid and nor­mal, even by the his­tor­i­cally placid stan­dard of Canada-U.S. re­la­tions, that with some mi­nor ex­cep­tions it could have been re­leased by Barack Obama’s White House.

The state­ment skipped over some Obama pri­or­i­ties like cli­mate change and refugees, but em­pha­sized numerous Cana­dian pri­or­i­ties: cus­toms pre­clear­ance projects to speed up the bor­der; more op­por­tu­ni­ties for labour mo­bil­ity; NATO co-op­er­a­tion in east­ern Europe.

Trump drove home the point when asked about pos­si­ble changes to NAFTA that he does not view the U.S.’s neigh­bours equally when it comes to trade. A pres­i­dent who railed against the con­ti­nen­tal trade pact al­most daily as a can­di­date was asked for the first time how Canada fits into his plans for a rene­go­ti­a­tion, which could start as early as this spring.

“We have a very out­stand­ing trade re­la­tion­ship with Canada,” Trump replied.

“We’ll be tweak­ing it; 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 taken place on the south­ern bor­der ...

“On the south­ern (bor­der), for many, many years, the trans­ac­tion was not fair to the United States. It was an ex­tremely un­fair trans­ac­tion ... So, our re­la­tion­ship with Canada is out­stand­ing. And we’re go­ing to work to­gether to make it even bet­ter.”

Both lead­ers pa­pered over their well-doc­u­mented dif­fer­ences. Trudeau made clear there will be dis­agree­ments, as with Trump’s freeze on Syr­ian refugees and at­tempts to limit tourism from cer­tain Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

Trudeau said re­la­tion­ships be­tween neigh­bours are com­plex, there will be dis­agree­ments, and he said the coun­tries will suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate those com­plex­i­ties and still re­main close friends.

In­vited by a re­porter to opine on his dif­fer­ences with Trump, the prime min­is­ter said: “The last thing Cana­di­ans ex­pect is for me to come down and lec­ture an­other coun­try on how they choose to gov­ern them­selves.”

In fact, the Cana­di­ans sought to en­sconce them­selves on Trump’s good side by tak­ing a well-trod­den path to it: flat­tery. Canada’s diplo­matic gifts to Trump in­cluded a pic­ture of him­self — stand­ing next to Pierre Trudeau, in 1981.

Trump said of the gift: “His fa­ther I knew, and re­spected greatly.”

That ex­change oc­curred at one of their four events at the White House: there was an Oval Of­fice meet­ing, lunch, a news con­fer­ence, and a meet­ing of a new Canada-U.S. busi­ness group for women, co­launched with Trump’s daugh­ter Ivanka.

One busi­ness leader also told Trump about how pri­vate fund­ing helps build pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture in cer­tain projects in Canada, and he ex­pressed in­ter­est as he plans for a $1 tril­lion in­fra­struc­ture plan.

The joint state­ment with Canada ap­peared to of­fer a glim­mer of hope on a key in­fra­struc­ture pri­or­ity: that the north­ern neigh­bour might be spared the Buy Amer­i­can re­stric­tions lim­it­ing pub­lic projects to U.S. com­pa­nies.

United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wel­comes Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau out­side the White House on Mon­day.

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