Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down President Trump’s invitation to meet this week alongside Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in celebration of their new trade deal.
Citing scheduling concerns, a spokesman for Trudeau announced Monday that the Canadian leader would be skipping the White House gathering so he could instead take part in cabinet meetings and “the long-planned sitting of Parliament” in his country.
“The entry-into-force of the new NAFTA is good for Canada, the United States, and Mexico,” the rep said in a statement. “It will help ensure that North America emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We wish the United States and Mexico well at Wednesday’s meeting.”
While Trudeau remains in Ottawa, Lopez Obrador and Trump will meet at the White House to mark the start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which went into effect July 1.
López Obrador has come under heavy criticism in Mexico for making his first foreign trip as president to the US, given Trump’s rhetoric on issues such as a border wall and immigrants.
But the Mexican president has maintained a cordial relationship with Trump — and went so far as to publicly encourage Trudeau to take part in the meeting, to no avail.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Lopez Obrador said Trudeau had asked to talk with him and that they planned to speak by phone later that day.
López Obrador began calling for Trudeau to participate in the meeting after the Canadian prime minister signaled Friday he would decline the invitation.
Trudeau cited concerns over the threats of new aluminum and steel tariffs from the US.
“We’re obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminum and steel that the Americans have floated recently,” he said at the time.
Trudeau was referring to the possible reintroduction of a 10 percent tariff lifted by Trump last year as part of USMCA negotiations.
The Canadian leader went on to cite coronavirus concerns as another reason for wanting to limit his travel.
“We’re also concerned about the health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries,” he said.
Canada is requiring all travelers entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving.
Had Trudeau opted to attend Wednesday’s meeting, he would have been required to self-quarantine when he returns, which would have caused him to miss the start of Canadian parliament.
A rep for the National Security Council, which is organizing Wednesday’s summit, echoed Trudeau’s statement on the meeting, which touted that Canada “continue[s] to work with our NAFTA partners to ensure this new agreement becomes a success for all three countries.”
With Post wires
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