Advice for the Trudeau-Trump meeting

By Will Marshall



Q. Prime Minister Trudeau’s last visit to Washington with President Obama was a love-in. What do you predict for his visit with President Trump?
WM: Canada is the western country that so far seems most resistant to the new wave of nationalist populism rolling over Europe and now America. In that sense, Justin Trudeau is the anti-Trump — a modern progressive who stands for economic openness, cultural pluralism, international trade and cooperation on climate change and other matters. All these things are antithetical to Trump. So I wouldn’t expect the two leaders to bond in the way Obama and Trudeau clearly did. A crisp and business-like approach is probably best, but the Prime Minister may find it hard to keep this President focused, so anything can happen.

Q. What is your advice for Trudeau?
WM. If I were in the Prime Minister’s shoes, I’d want to know more about what exactly President Trump has in mind for NAFTA. Trump’s rhetoric casts trade (wrongly) as a zero-sum game. Is there any way to “fix” NAFTA to Trump’s satisfaction that doesn’t disadvantage Canada and Mexico? Trudeau could underscore the benefits of turning North America into a global production and energy center, but Trump is under the impression NAFTA has allowed our neighbors to “steal” American jobs. It will be interesting On the other hand, Trump no doubt appreciates Trudeau’s support for the project XL pipeline and that could be the basis of a more cordial conversation.
Mr. Trudeau may also want to brace for a lecture from Trump on refugees and immigration policy. The President is on the defensive about his temporary ban on refugees from seven Muslim countries, and probably was irked by the Prime Minister’s robust affirmation of Canada’s more welcoming policy.

Q. Who else would be important from a Canadian perspective?
WM. It might also be useful for the Prime Minister to meet with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. These two have tried to reassure Europe that the United States is still committed to NATO, despite Trump’s dismissive comments. They’d probably welcome some help in nudging their boss toward greater transatlantic solidarity and cooperation.
(Note to reader: Canadian cabinet members Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan met with their American counterparts the week before the leaders’ meeting.)

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