French PM Manuel Valls calls Canada ‘key partner’ on fighting terror, climate change

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls praised Canada as a key partner in fighting the biggest challenges confronting the world, from the “scourge” of terrorism to fighting climate change.

The French PM praised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for reassuming a leading role on the global stage, and said France is a champion of a free trade deal between Canada and the European Union.​

The pair took part in a welcoming ceremony followed by a wreath laying in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower.

The Department of National Defence staged a 19-gun salute using four C3 howitzers positioned behind the East Block of Parliament Hill. 

The two leaders are holding a private meeting before a scheduled media availability at 9:30 a.m. CBC News is livestreaming that news conference.

Valls arrived in Ottawa late Wednesday. He met with Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall before a working dinner with Trudeau later in the evening.

From Ottawa, the two will move on to Montreal. They’ll join Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard at noon for a business luncheon hosted by the Montreal Chamber of Commerce to promote the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union.

Trudeau may head to Brussels to officially sign the agreement later this month, but some countries have been slow to agree to its ratification.

Valls will be in Canada until Friday.

The French PM wants to discuss “the political atmosphere in the Western Hemisphere with the rising of populism, protectionism, and all these questions that we see rising in various countries,” said a French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But less so in Canada, so that’s why the prime minister is interested to hear about the Canadian situation and Canadian solutions.”

Peacekeeping plans

French officials also say Valls is keen to get an update from Trudeau on Canada’s plans for sending peacekeepers to West Africa to join the fight against Islamic militants.

The Trudeau government has said it will commit 600 peacekeepers to UN missions, and France has been pushing Canada hard to join the UN mission in West Africa.

France has 3,000 troops fighting a separate counter-insurgency mission in several countries that used to be its colonies, under the banner of Operation Barkhane.

Climate change and the Canada-U.S. free trade deal have been singled out by Trudeau’s office as being among Canada’s top priorities.

“The visit will also allow us to promote greater trade and innovation flows — particularly though CETA — to help grow the middle class and strengthen our economies,” Trudeau said in a statement.

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