Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, America’s largest trading partner after China, is set to meet with Trump today with the goal of nurturing economic ties in a mutually beneficial way. They are not scheduled to touch on the issue of immigration in an effort to avoid potential tension as both leaders’ stances seem to fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Trudeau has remained largely silent on the election of Donald Trump, a conservative that campaigned on a promise to tighten border security and renegotiate trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in America’s favor. They will likely discuss the latter issue today, leaving immigration issues for a later date.
Trudeau has been fairly upbeat about the upcoming meeting, recently telling reporters that he and Trump would “find a lot of common ground,” and he would protect and convey Canada’s values while doing it “respectfully and not from an ideological standpoint.” It will be the first time they’ve met in person since Trump took office last month, but most of Trump’s criticism of NAFTA thus far has been directed towards Mexico which he believes has stolen American jobs, so most expect the meeting between the two leaders to be positive and beneficial towards both countries. 75% of Canada’s exports go to the United States, so they have a vested interest in maintaining a good relationship with President Trump.
Trudeau had a strong relationship with Trump’s predecessor, with political observers going as far as to call it a “bromance”, and though most do not expect the dynamic to remain exactly the same, they expect both leaders to be friendly toward one another. After Trump placed travel and immigration restrictions on some war-torn countries, Trudeau released a statement saying refugees were welcome in Canada, and those fleeing persecution would be welcomed with open arms, however he never actually criticized Trump or mentioned America’s actions directly. Given the rising anti-trade sentiment, Trudeau has strong incentives to build a good relationship with Trump despite their stark differences given their countries interdependence on one another. Trudeau is subject to the same pressure than many foreign leaders face when meeting with America – get on America’s good side to maintain the economic ties without appearing subordinate.
Given that Trump has not hesitated to take a strong tone with other leaders critical of America, Trudeau is not likely to change his strategy when talking about, or issues sensitive to, America. Maintain Canada’s more liberal positions, without directly attacking Trump or his strategies. He is expected to make the case that Canada-US free trade is beneficial to both countries, which many economists on both sides of the border agree with, and Trump hasn’t disagreed with, to try to preempt any potential moves by the White House to impose tariffs on Canadian imports. Trudeau, a self-described feminist, has also planned to touch on difference ways to advance women in the workforce as both leaders have agreed by jointly launching a new task force called the United States Canada council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs, as it is also an issue of mutual interest.