Trudeau and Trump, chapter one, ends well
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
It’s said that Monday’s meeting between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump was the most scrutinized in recent Canadian history.
If that’s true, all that scrutiny has yet to turn up anything scandalous or even very worrisome. Trump appeared to be on his best behaviour. Trudeau appeared confident, assured and by no means threatened.
Trump referred to NAFTA changes, which are causing national anxiety here, as tweaking, because the trade relationship is very solid, unlike with Mexico. Trudeau didn’t rise to any bait about Trump’s infamous travel ban, correctly maintaining the position that he wasn’t there to lecture, at least not publicly.
All in all, it appeared a good and constructive day’s work for both leaders.
Teams Trump and Trudeau deserve some points for effective strategy. Trump has a problem with female voters. Trudeau, a self-declared feminist who is internationally praised for his progressive views on gender, championed their joint committee on women in the workforce, of which Trump’s daughter Ivanka is a member. Trudeau lends credibility to the committee’s work, and at the same time shines a progressive light on Trump, whose views until now have not been well received by many women. See how they did that? It was smart in that it played to Trudeau’s strength, bolstered a Trump weakness and promoted unity on an important issue.
Trudeau did more than hold his own, which raises an interesting point. There was no shortage of Canadian critics, pundits and trolls predicting he would somehow stumble in the symbolically important first meeting. What does it say about people who actually hoped the duly elected leader of the country would be somehow bested by Trump? Shouldn’t all Canadians, as was the case with opposition parties in Ottawa, want the prime minister to succeed on this file?
Yes, it was important. But as noted, the meeting was symbolic. The real heavy lifting on important matters for both countries won’t unfold in press conferences or scripted events. Rather, it falls to people who labour behind the scenes on trade, bilateral security matters, border management and other issues. And on some of those issues, we still face serious challenges.
Canadian agricultural supply management is likely to be on the trade hot seat. Softwood lumber. The beef industry, still anxious from recent U.S. rumblings over “country-of-origin” regulations that would severely hurt Canadian producers. The auto sector. And water. Which we have a lot of, and the U.S. needs more of.
As Trudeau noted, the relationship of these two countries is fascinating on many levels. But it’s also complex, and defies simplistic solutions, which the Trump administration is known to favour. For now, relatively smooth sailing is in the forecast. But …