Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is heading to Washington, D.C. for his first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump, the political force that embodies the philosophical antithesis of the Canadian leader’s political career.
Trudeau’s office put to rest weeks of speculation over when, exactly, the two figures would meet on Thursday, when they announced Trudeau would fly to D.C. on Monday, February 13, to meet with the American leader.
The short notice is unusual for a trip of this magnitude, and comes after the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and finance all made the same trek to meet with their counterparts in the last week.
Trudeau’s visit, which is not an official state trip, will be brief. He takes off to Europe on Wednesday to meet with European Union officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — in part, to finalize details of a massive Canada-Europe free trade agreement, but, perhaps more importantly, to strike a unified front in the face of Trump’s skepticism to globalisation, hostility to trade, and suspicion of refugees.
On trade, diplomacy and security, there are plenty of sore spots that may arise when the two leaders finally come face-to-face. Trump’s rumored rapprochement to Russia is at odds with Ottawa’s skeptical stance towards the Kremlin, especially in Eastern Ukraine. Trump has wasted no time in ripping up the the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trudeau seemed poised to endorse, and has pledged to bring in border taxes and renegotiate NAFTA, which has caused consternation in just about every circle in Canada. More personal to Trudeau and his team, however, is Trump’s overt opposition to immigration, legal or not, and taking in refugees — something Trudeau has turned into a hallmark of his government.
The trip is in direct contrast to the last time Trudeau was in America’s capital, when he and then-President Barack Obama celebrated a much-feted ‘bromance’ — a meeting where the two managed to hammer out an agreement on thickening the US-Canada border.