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Friday, August 14, 2020

Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Turns Down White House Invitation

TORONTO (AP): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down a White House invitation to celebrate the new regional free trade agreement in Washington with United States President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Trump and López Obrador are due to meet on Wednesday in Washington, but Trudeau spokesperson Chantal Gagnon said on Monday that while Canada wishes the US and Mexico well, Trudeau won’t be there.

“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,” Gagnon said.

Trudeau is conducting online Cabinet meetings instead of in-person meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to be quoted by name, said Trudeau had multiple conflicts related to the start of Parliament and coronavirus regulations that require Canadians who travel abroad to quarantine for 14 days on return. The official said that Trudeau has asked to speak with Trump by phone.

López Obrador also said that he would be speaking to Trudeau by phone.

Gagnon said that the new treaty, which took effect on July 1, “is good for Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It will help ensure that North America emerges stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said that Trudeau has less to lose by shunning Trump now that the new treaty is in effect.

“Trudeau loses in Canadian public opinion to be seen chumming with the very unpopular Trump,” Wiseman said. “Trudeau can afford to wait out Trump’s presidency now with less than four months to the US election. Trudeau will still be in power after the election, Trump much less likely so.”

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