What else did they discuss?

February 16, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Tom Claridge

IF WE ARE TO BELIEVE the news accounts following Monday’s meeting between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump, it was all mainly a friendly batter.

Statements provided after the session made mention of several things agreed upon by the two leaders, and remarks at a press conference suggested everything was sweetness and light, notwithstanding the fact many of the policies adopted by the new Trump administration are diametrically opposite to those of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government.

And that should hardly be to anyone’s surprise, given that Mr. Trudeau championed “sunny ways” and Mr. Trump got elected based on a campaign of fear and despair.

But the two men apparently found common ground on key issues such as boosting commerce and military co-operation, and building the Keystone XL pipeline.

The related subjects of terrorism and immigration from the Muslim world came up only during a press conference following the hour-long meeting in the Oval Office.

In response to reporters’ questions, Mr. Trudeau described Canada’s position as open and welcoming to refugees and immigrants without compromising security, while Mr. Trump defended his own hardline approach to close the door.

And when asked whether he believes the northern border of the U.S. is secure, Mr. Trump said, “You can never be totally confident.”

The leaders met at a tumultuous period in Mr. Trump’s presidency. He has been facing legal battles and protests over executive orders to suspend the intake of refugees and impose a travel ban for seven Muslim-majority countries. But when asked about mass arrests Sunday of undocumented immigrants, he said Monday he was only following through on his promise to rid the country of criminals and drug lords.

“We are getting such praise for our stance. It is a stance of common sense. Maybe a certain toughness, but really more than toughness, it’s a stance of common sense,” he said. “We are going to pursue it vigorously, and we don’t want to have our country have the kinds of problems that you’re witnessing taking place not only here, but around the world.”

On the North American Free Trade Agreement, which at one point he talked about tearing it up, Mr. Trump appeared to assure Canada that his primary concerns with the deal relate to Mexico. He praised the Canada-U.S. trade relationship as “very outstanding.”

“We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border, on the southern border for many, many years the transaction was not fair to the United States,.”

Mr. Trudeau stressed that jobs and business on both sides of the border depend on trade and an integrated economy. “We know that by working together, by ensuring the continued effective integration of our two economies we are going to be creating greater opportunities for middle-class Canadians and Americans now and well into the future.”

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

What else was discussed in the 60-minute chat? We’d be surprised if the talk didn’t get around to the second thorniest (behind terrorism) issue the new president faces, health care.

As matters stand, Mr. Trump has promised to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with something better, but the Republican-dominated Congress seems incapable of devising a replacement, agreeing among themselves only that Obamacare must go.

We think that if the matter did come up, Mr. Trudeau should have suggested following Canada’s lead in leaving it to the 50 states to administer health care with only a requirement that it be universally available.

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