Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t travel to Washington this week to toast North America’s new trade deal alongside U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“We wish the United States and Mexico well at Wednesday’s meeting,” Trudeau spokesperson Chantal Gagnon told HuffPost Canada via email Monday.
“While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the Prime Minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament.”
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Trudeau’s decision to stay put means he can be in the House of Commons Wednesday when Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveils an economic “snapshot” that will give some sense of where the economy is headed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated the deficit could top $250 billion this fiscal year.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as the new NAFTA, officially came into force on July 1. Gagnon said the trade pact is “good for Canada, the United States, and Mexico,” and will “help ensure that North America emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gagnon also said no representative would be sent in Trudeau’s stead.
Speaking with reporters in Gatineau, Que. Friday, Trudeau said his office was in discussions with U.S. officials about whether a trilateral summit to mark the deal “makes sense” — and not just because of concerns about COVID-19.
“We’re obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminum and steel that the Americans have floated recently,” he said, referring to reports from Bloomberg and the New York Times that the Trump White House is considering re-imposing 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum from Canada.
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The prime minister has warned that putting tariffs on Canadian aluminum will hurt the American economy because the U.S. does not produce enough aluminum to fulfill its domestic manufacturing needs.
Trudeau told reporters Friday that “we’re also concerned about the health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries.”
The prime minister was also asked at the time if travelling to Washington would mean he would have to self-isolate for two weeks upon return. The government of Canada has put in place emergency measures that require travellers returning from Canada quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether or not they are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“These are obviously the conversations that we’re having both with the Americans and with public health officials here in Canada but I can assure you that, at all times, we will follow all the rules and all the advice of public health,” he said.
Trudeau self-isolated for two weeks in March after his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19.
López Obrador, Mexico’s leader, is reportedly facing domestic criticism for agreeing to meet Trump face-to-face for the first time since taking office in December 2018. Concerns have been raised that López Obrador is helping the Republican president politically amid rising coronavirus cases and a challenging re-election battle against Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
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