He likes us, he really, really likes us! Well, perhaps that may be reading a bit much into the first official meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American President Donald Trump, but judging by the carefully scripted statements from the two politicians following the meeting at the White House, the historic alliance between our two nations remains sound.
In fact, there were some odd nuances contained in the president’s statement—delivered with a complete absence of the off the wall incendiary bow shots that have come to dominate the social media feeds following President Trump’s other forays into international politics.
Despite the dire warnings evident in the partisan headlines of the right wing media, Prime Minister Trudeau seems to have held his own during the discussions—or perhaps we are being lulled into a false sense of security, the calm before the storming.
But for this moment at least, President Trump’s unequivocal reaffirmation of the historic alliance between Canada and the US, his expression of shared values, our commonality of interests, the intricately woven fabric of our commercial interests and trade, indicate that he has little interest in engaging in a two-front trade war, at least here in North America.
In fact his call for an alliance between our two nations on the trade front to keep jobs here in North America is clearly aimed at calming the jitters in commercial districts of the northern states. As Prime Minister Trudeau pointed out in his statement, also carefully crafted to avoid any diplomatic pitfalls, our two nations engage in $2 billion in bilateral trade each and every day of the year. It is a relationship that clearly benefits both sides and neither leader has any interest in upsetting that mutually beneficial applecart.
On the terrorism front, President Trump appears to have shunted aside the recent hysteria—factually unsubstantiated—that points to our border as a potential source of terrorist infiltration into the States, in favour of a recognition and affirmation of the close working relationship between our security and border services in thwarting such threats.
Although the third party opposition NDP have issued a clarion call to the prime minister, urging him to tweak the nose of the bully and to stand up for all that is right, just and good, Mr. Trudeau opted for the diplomatic route and an affirmation of those values that both our nations hold dear, particularly in the arena of commerce. “Canadians don’t want their prime minister to lecture another country” he said before the meeting. Well of course quite a few actually do want just that. Lectures on pipelines, on refugees and a host of other things they don’t agree with. Prime Minister Trudeau wisely eschewed that course as not being in Canada’s interests. Sometimes the sensible thing to do may suck, but a responsible leader has to do just that, suck it up and sally forth.
In an almost surreal departure from the crass anti-feminist image that is so often put forward by President Trump and his detractors, the two leaders sat down to discuss the critical importance of the contributions that women make to the marketplace and how to best support and encourage those contributions, although the published text of the president’s initial remarks on that subject were peculiarly worded (the better to read in different contexts my dear?), his final remarks on the subject were unequivocal, direct and positive.
Prime Minister Trudeau did not shy away from the fact that we have differences of opinion on a lot of issues, that we do not always agree on every point, but he quite correctly went on to emphasis the importance of the relationship between our two countries and our shared and common interests.
Much has been made of the body language between the two leaders, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s boxer-like agility in overcoming the president’s odd approach to shaking hands. On that front too, Prime Minister Trudeau proved his competence and made his nation proud. If there are traits Justin Trudeau inculcated from his storied father, they are a solid understanding of preparation and the value of political theatre. A handshake as pirouette.
It may be dangerous to read too much into statements deftly crafted by bureaucrats and read by rote at a podium before two nation’s press, but for the moment we have met the “friend,” and he is us.
Let us fervently hope it stays that way.