OTTAWA Feb 13 When Canadian Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau visits U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, he
will look to nurture economic ties while avoiding tensions over
issues such as immigration on which the two are sharply at odds.
Trudeau has taken a low-key approach toward Trump, a
Republican who campaigned on a pledge to toughen U.S.
immigration policies and renegotiate the North American Free
Trade Agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Ahead of Monday's meeting with Trump at the White House -
the first between the two leaders since Trump took office last
month - Trudeau said he expected they would "find a lot of
At a news conference on Friday, Trudeau also said he would
look to "defend and demonstrate Canadian values," but do so
"respectfully and not from an ideological standpoint."
Trump's vow to renegotiate NAFTA has unnerved Canadian
officials, even though he has singled out Mexico in his
criticism of the free trade deal that he has called a U.S. job
killer. Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United
Details about a tense telephone call late last month between
Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also
The Washington Post, citing unidentified senior U.S.
officials, said Trump abruptly ended the call and said it was
the "worst call by far" he had had with a foreign leader, even
though Australia has long been a staunch U.S. ally. On Twitter,
Trump labeled a refugee swap deal with Australia "dumb."
Trudeau had a strong rapport with former Democratic
President Barack Obama, prompting pundits to describe their
relationship as a "bromance."
Soon after Trump put a hold on allowing refugees into the
United States and temporarily banned travelers from seven
Muslim-majority countries, citing the need to head off attacks
by Islamist militants, the Canadian prime minister took to
Twitter to say refugees were welcome in Canada.
"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will
welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength
#WelcomeToCanada," Trudeau wrote.
'POLICY OF LAYING LOW'
Still, analysts said Trudeau has strong incentives to build
a relationship with Trump given rising anti-trade sentiment.
"You don't have to be a genius to see there are some stark
differences between them," said Duke University professor
Stephen Kelly, former U.S. deputy chief of mission to Ottawa.
"But is this the time to be poking people in the eye? I
would say it is not ... in some ways the president is a guy for
whom personal relationships may be even more important."
A White House official said a number of topics were expected
to be discussed, including NAFTA and the Keystone pipeline.
Canadian pollster Nik Nanos said Trudeau, who remains
popular at home more than a year after winning a surprise
Liberal majority government, faces the same pressure all
Canadian leaders do when they engage with U.S. presidents - keep
the economic ties tight but do not appear too chummy or
Nanos expects that Trudeau, if asked, will speak about how
Canada is welcoming refugees or seeking to expand free trade,
without saying anything critical about Trump's point of view,
conscious that Trump has not hesitated to take an aggressive
tone with other leaders.
"This meeting is more about avoiding pitfalls than trying to
engage on some of the big issues," Nanos said. "It's definitely
the policy of laying low."
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and David
Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney)