OTTAWA – There is no shortage of advice being offered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he prepares to meet U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday at the White House in Washington. Here are five pieces of advice from a variety of pundits, politicians and diplomats:
1. Focus on the jobs. Nine million of them in the United States depend on trade with Canada. That’s been one of the key talking points the Trudeau government has been hammering at home and in meetings with Trump’s people in the U.S. People like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson already know this, but don’t take it for granted that Trump has received the message.
2. Don’t preach on values. Trump may offend many Canadians with his much-publicized views towards Muslims, women and Mexicans. Ian Lee, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa says it would be “childish and juvenile and irresponsible” for anyone to think Trudeau’s job is to go to Washington to preach Canadian values to Trump when a renegotiated NAFTA, a possible import tax and Buy America protectionism are on the table.
3. Focus on tone, go easy on the substance, for now. It could take Trump several more months to fill the thousands of top-level government jobs in his new administration, says former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney.
4. Commit more money for the military. Trump has called NATO obsolete and bemoaned the fact that most of its 27 other members — Canada included — have failed to meet the alliance’s spending target of two per cent of GDP. Canada spends less than one per cent. Roland Paris, Trudeau’s former foreign policy adviser, says it is time to boost defence spending because Trump’s rhetoric “poses a signal challenge to all of America’s partners.”
5. Steer clear of talk of climate change. Trump is no fan of this. He’s threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. Canada worked alongside Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, to get the deal done in late 2015. Georganne Burke, an American-born Trump supporter who is a vice-president of a Toronto public relations firm, says Trudeau needs to tone down the rhetoric on climate change because most U.S. conservatives were angered when Obama labelled it the greatest threat to the world.