The first meeting between President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was closely watched by Canadians and border communities in the U.S. The public view of the leaders’ meeting is boosting confidence about future economic links between the two countries.
President Donald Trump has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it has not been advantageous to U.S. interests. During a joint press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that NAFTA is a real concern for Canadians. “Millions of good jobs on both sides of the border depend on the smooth and easy flow of goods and services and people back and forth across our border. And by insuring the continued effective integration of our two economies we are going to be creating greater opportunities for middle class Canadians and Americans.”
Standing aside the Canadian Prime Minister, the president declared that any major changes to the trade pact would focus on Mexico. “We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada. We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries. So our relationship with Canada is outstanding and we’re going to work together to make it even better.”
Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas is encouraged to hear the two leaders embracing economic partnership. “The U.S. Canadian economic partnership is the gold standard for international agreements. And everything that came out of the meeting was effusive in recognizing that the U.S. Canadian relationship is special. It’s unique. It’s powerfully important economically to both the U.S. and Canada and that any agreement is always open for review. But that it would make sense that that review in this case ought to be to acknowledge that this is working, where are some of the opportunities to make it work even better?”
In the past year Canada has welcomed nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees, a philosophy diametrically opposed to President Trump’s immigration policy. “We want people to come in and come in our country. But we cannot let the wrong people in and I will not allow that to happen.”
Prime Minister Trudeau was measured in his comments regarding security and refugees. “Canadians and Americans have stood together. But there have been times where we have differed in our approaches. And that’s always been done firmly and respectfully. The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves.”
SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Study of Canada Dr. Christopher Kirkey notes that Canadians wanted this initial meeting to build a rapport with the new president despite the philosophical differences between the two leaders. “Mr. Trudeau did a very commendable job. He didn’t poke. He didn’t irritate. He purposely went out of his way at the press conference to say that differences might exist, but who am I to tell you what to do in your country. And I thought that was a very smart gesture on his part. And I also thought that he reiterated repeatedly, and also purposely, how deep and meaningful and how important the Canada-U.S. relationship is to both economies.”
McGill University Desautels Faculty of Management Associate Professor Dr. Karl Moore reports that the meeting is receiving positive reviews from Canadians. “The Prime Minister did a good job representing Canada very well. The President had done better than we anticipated. President Trump didn’t say anything negative about Canada, in fact only positive things. And there’s a bit of nervousness about President Trump. He’s you know less of a knowable quantity than past presidents have been. And we’re happy the first meeting seemed to go reasonably well.”
According to a joint statement released by the Trump and Trudeau administrations Monday, Canada is the most important foreign market for 35 U.S. states. More than $2 billion in cross-border trade occurs daily.