Trudeau, Trump find common ground on economic growth, border security

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump seem to have found common ground on a range of issues following their debut meeting in Washington today, including military cooperation, securing the border and empowering women business leaders.

In a joint statement issued mid-afternoon, the two leaders recognized “profound shared economic interests” and pledged to work tirelessly to boost growth and generate jobs in both countries.

“Millions of American and Canadian middle-class jobs, including in the manufacturing sector, depend on our partnership,” the statement reads.

The communique says the two countries will work to expedite the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline and commit to establishing pre-clearance operations for cargo crossing the border.

“We intend to accelerate the completion of pre-clearance for additional cities and continue to expand this program,” it reads.

The statement also expresses a shared “strong concern” about opioid-related deaths, pledging the countries to work together to stop opioid trafficking.

The release says the U.S. also welcomes Canada’s plan to hold an open competition on replacing its fleet of CF-18 fighter jets, and to buy a fleet of 18 U.S.-made Super Hornet aircraft in the interim.

It also says the U.S. values Canada’s military contributions, including efforts to combat ISIS and in Latvia.

There is no mention of the contentious NAFTA trade deal, the softwood lumber dispute or about fighting climate change.

Women in business round table

Earlier in the day, the two leaders announced a joint task force to promote women executives.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a roundtable discussion with female executives, including Ivanka Trump, daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump, at the White House in Washington on Monday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, made up of five women from each country, will recommend ways to promote women-owned enterprises and boost economic growth.

Trump, meeting with the Canadian prime minister in Washington on Monday, said women executives have played a “tremendously important” role in his businesses, but also that more must be done to enable more women to work and thrive.

“We need policies that help keep women in the workforce and to address the unique barriers faced by female entrepreneurs,” he said.

Trudeau, seated beside Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, said the council will study the challenges and paths to success for women. He said leveraging powerful women is not only about doing the right thing. Women in leadership roles contribute to the success of businesses, communities and entire economies, he said.

Ivanka Trump, a successful entrepreneur who helped organize and recruit participants for the event Monday, said she looked forward to hearing more perspectives about how to “level the playing field for this generation and the next.”

Council members are:

  • Elyse Allan, president and CEO, GE Canada.
  • Mary T. Barra, CEO, General Motors Company.
  • Dawn Farrell, president and CEO, TransAlta Corp.
  • Linda Hasenfratz, CEO, Linamar Corp.
  • Monique Leroux, president of board of directors, Investissement Québec.
  • Tina Lee, CEO, TT Supermarket Inc.
  • Tamara Lundgren, president and CEO, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc.
  • Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo.
  • Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture – North America.
  • Annette Verschuren, Chair and CEO, NRStor Inc.

Trudeau was greeted with a smile and handshake from Trump at the White House on Monday morning as he arrived in Washington for the first official bilateral meeting. The pair then posed for a photo in the Oval Office, seated in armchairs in front of the fireplace in a near silence, except for the click of cameras.

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Ivanka Trump, left, and Trudeau, centre, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with women business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington Monday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

“I think they want a handshake,” Trump said before the two leaders shared another physical exchange and the pool of reporters was ushered out.

Trudeau’s one-day visit to the U.S. capital is viewed as critical for setting the tone for the Canada-U.S. relationship under the new Republican administration.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a range of issues, including trade, the economy and security.

Several key cabinet ministers are also part of Canada’s Washington delegation: Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

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Trump shakes hands with Trudeau in the Oval Office of the White House. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs with special responsibilities for the Canada-U.S. relationship, and David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., are also part of the delegation.

The prime minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, is not on the trip.

At 2 p.m. ET, Trudeau and Trump will hold a joint media availability in the East Room of the White House.

Later this afternoon:

  • 3 p.m.: Trudeau meets with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.
  • 3:40 p.m.: Trudeau meets with the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
  • 6 p.m.: Trudeau departs for return to Ottawa.

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Trudeau’s trip to Washington comes after a controversial travel ban imposed by Trump that bars entry from citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. While the federal government has received assurance that permanent residents in Canada from these countries will be permitted to enter the U.S., the NDP said there have been at least five publicly reported cases where travellers were denied entry.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan wrote to Trudeau, pushing him to raise the issue and ask for a guarantee that people will not face discrimination at the border. Treatment based on heritage or religion is “humiliating, completely unacceptable and harmful to Canada-U.S. relations,” the letter reads.

Travel ban backlash

“As Prime Minister of Canada you represent the views and interests of Canadians on the world stage,” the letter says. “Canadians are resoundingly opposed to Mr. Trump’s travel ban and you are therefore duty-bound to express Canada’s opposition to these policies.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a restraining order on the original travel ban, but Trump said Friday he is considering signing a new executive order. 

Trump said he expects his administration will win the legal battle over his original directive. 

A White House official said the administration was not planning to immediately ask the Supreme Court to overturn the restraining order and would argue for its constitutionality in the lower courts. The official say next steps were not yet finalized and could change.

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