Justin Trudeau said at a joint press conference in Washington with Donald Trump on Monday that it was not his place to come down to the US and “lecture another country”.
At a surprisingly placid joint press conference at the White House, the Canadian prime minister went out of his way to avoid any incidents with a US president, who has already stoked controversy in his dealings with several foreign leaders. Trudeau seemed to be struggling to keep a straight face at times as his American counterpart spoke.
While Trudeau, who has long been vocal about the need for Canada to welcome refugees, did his best to avoid conflict, he was aided by the American press, who used their two questions for Trump to lob softballs at him. The president, who is facing growing controversy over his national security adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as well as his own apparent discussion of classified information on the patio at his Florida club over the weekend, called on two right wing media outlets for questions, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Daily Caller. Flynn was in attendance at the press conference on Monday.
Although following Trump’s announcement of his travel ban – now blocked by the courts – last month, Trudeau wrote on Twitter: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada”, he avoided such statements on Monday.
Instead, the prime minister noted of US-Canadian relations that “there have been times where we have differed in our approaches and that’s always been done firmly and respectfully”. Trudeau added: “The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose they govern themselves. My role, my responsibility is to continue to govern in such a way that reflects Canadians’ approach and be a positive example in the world.”
Earlier he did say Canada believed it could maintain an “openness” to immigrants and refugees “without compromising security”.
Trump returned to several of his favorite topics during the press conference, pledging to get “criminals, drug lords and gang members” out of the country, boasting about his “very, very large electoral college victory”, which came in spite of a loss in the popular vote, and darkly warning “we have problems in just about every corner of the globe”.
The president also made clear that his concerns about Nafta, the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, were far more focused on the United States’ southern neighbor than its northern one. “We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada; we’ll be tweaking and doing things that benefit both of our countries,” said Trump, adding that the relationship with Canada was a “much less severe situation than that on our southern border”. Trump continued to enthuse that “our relationship with Canada is outstanding – we’ll work together to make it even better.”
Trudeau did his best to try to find common ground with his counterpart. He told reporters “both President Trump and I got elected on commitments to support the middle class” as the Canadian prime minister then emphasized how important “the continued effective integration of our two economies” was.
Prior to their joint press conference, Trudeau and Trump held a meeting with female business leaders from both countries, including Ivanka Trump, where they announced the creation of United States-Canada Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. The two went on to hold a private lunch in the White House. After the press conference, the Canadian prime minister went to Capitol Hill to meet with speaker Paul Ryan.