Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stuck to his script at Monday’s news conference with President Donald Trump — with the shadow of NAFTA hovering over the event.
While Trump summed up his first face-to-face meeting with Trudeau with a variety of observations on shared commitments, Trudeau remained firmly entrenched in trade. “We share much more than a border,” Trump said, “we share values.” Those values encompass freedom and a shared defence that has meant the two countries have “shed blood together” and a “common fight against terrorism.”
Importantly, for Canada, Trump specifically referred to the importance of a “stronger trading relationship.”
Trudeau avoided talking about defense, terrorism and especially immigration, choosing instead to focus on trade and “cross-border commerce.” He reminded his audience that “35 U.S. states identify Canada as their largest export market,” and that trade creates “millions of good middle-class jobs.”
He also mentioned “mutual respect” and potential differences with the U.S. on several occasions and suggested that “because of our deep and abiding respect, we’re able to navigate those differences.”
Despite repeated attempts by some Canadian media present to draw Trudeau into the immigration and refugee debate — where he and Trump differ strongly — the Canadian prime minister stubbornly refused to take the bait. He simply reiterated his continued support for “Canadian values” and told the collected journalists that “Canadians did not expect their prime minister to come to the U.S. and lecture” them about how they govern themselves.
The muted performance may have charmed much of the U.S. media, but Trudeau’s critics in Canada were not all satisfied.
Conservative Party leadership front-runner Kevin O’Leary told The Daily Caller that he was “disappointed that Justin Trudeau does not have a more private and working relationship with President Trump. We have the longest undefended border in the world with the US, we do over 85 per cent of our international trade with the US and this meeting was so important to ensure that we maintain and build on this positive relationship.”
The “Shark Tank” star turned political force expressed concern that Trudeau may not understand the importance of the U.S. to Canadian prosperity. “I really hope Trudeau recognizes the gravity of this meeting,” he said.
O’Leary did find one area of shared enthusiasm with Trudeau. “As an entrepreneur with a long history of supporting women in business , I applaud the creation of the Canada – US task force on women in business and entrepreneurship,” he said.
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