TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Washington next week to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss the ratification of the new North American trade agreement and China’s detention of two Canadians.
Trudeau’s office said he will visit next Thursday. Trump and Trudeau are trying to build momentum to pass the new trade deal that also includes Mexico.
Relations have improved since a low last summer when the U.S. president called Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest.” Trump was furious after Trudeau said at a Group of Seven summit that he wouldn’t let Canada be pushed around in trade relations with the U.S.
The new Mexico-U.S.-Canada Agreement, signed in November by the leaders of the three nations, is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. The pact needs approval from lawmakers in each country. Democrats in Washington now want stronger enforcement of labour standards and they oppose a provision that protects pharmaceutical companies from competition.
Trump almost derailed the agreement himself after threatening a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports to pressure that country to do more to crack down on Central American migrants trying to cross into the U.S.
Trudeau’s office said Thursday that during his meeting with Trump the prime minister will also bring up plight of two Canadians held in China. Beijing detained ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei. She was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities who want her to face fraud charges in the U.S.
Trump is expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit this month in Japan.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected the purported view of former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, reported in the Globe and Mail citing anonymous sources, that Canada should cancel the extradition request in order to improve relations with China and win the release of the Canadians.
Freeland said she respects Chretien but said either Canada is either a rule of law country or is not.
“It would be a very dangerous precedent indeed for Canada to alter its behaviour when it comes to honouring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure,” Freeland said. “By acting in a single case we could actually make Canadians less safe around the world.”
Rob Gillies, The Associated Press