With his Secret Service detail and requisite black motorcade, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence arrived in Ottawa Thursday to thank Canadians for their trade relationship. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted the vice president at a mini-summit aimed at bolstering ratification of the new free trade deal between the countries.
“I saw your determination to drive a hard bargain for Canada, just as President Trump was driving a hard bargain for the United States of America,” said Pence. “The president and I are truly grateful. We’re truly grateful for your determination to see this agreement reached.”
The new NAFTA deal – or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – emerged over common ground said Pence, because “we share the same values.”
Cut through lumber and steel tariffs, the latter lifted last week, and in the shadow of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter roasting of Trudeau for duplicity at the Charlevoix G7 last summer, today that was water under the bridge for old friends.
“At our core, both of us share a love for freedom. And on that foundation, we’re sharing greater prosperity in the years ahead,” said Pence.
The U.S. vice-president also delivered a firm rebuke to China for its detainment of two Canadians, apparent retaliation for the arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou as she transited through Vancouver last December. She’s remains slated for extradition to the U.S., accused of violating American sanctions against Iran.
“To that end, the United States renews its calls on the Chinese government to release the two Canadian citizens who have been wrongly detained for the last six months without due process,” said Pence. “We know you will not be intimidated by coercive tactics and neither will we.”
But as the United States and Canada find common ground on their new free trade deal and Chinese belligerence, Pence’s trip to Ottawa elicited more differences than similarities between the two countries.
While the deal and the lifting of steel tariffs are wins for Canada, stateside USMCA’s ratification is mired in politics via Trump’s ongoing spat with U.S. Congressional House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The U.S. president has threatened to kill the deal altogether over Democrats’ obstruction, but Pence reaffirmed his administration’s position that they could get a deal by this summer.
On the economy, America’s grew 3.1 percent in at the end of 2018 and since Trump took office in January 2017, nearly six-million new jobs have been created.
Compared to Trudeau’s boast of a million new jobs in Canada since his October 2015 election win, inside an economy suffering a hobbled energy sector and near negative economic growth for the fourth quarter of last year, Pence offered a highlight reel of contrasts.
“We’ve cut taxes, rolled back regulation, unleashed American energy and the results have been extraordinary,” he said. “And I know they’ve been felt here in Canada.”
On Venezuela, both Canada and the United States have backed interim-president Juan Guaido, but on Cuba’s purported involvement the allies diverge – Trudeau favouring engagement with Cuba, versus American isolationism that’s become more hardline under Trump.
Trudeau referred to these differences as “complimentary”, and that “Canada has a very different position when it comes to Cuba.”
On Huawei’s 5G broadband tech, the nations are at total odds. Last November the United States asked allies to ban it from their domestic telecommunication networks. Australia and New Zealand agreed last year and both are part of the Five Eyes surveillance network that includes the U.S., UK and Canada. Britain has also since banned certain 5G hardware, while Canada continues to study the matter.
Standing beside Pence in Ottawa, Trudeau said any decision Canada makes on the Chinese technology getting a foothold on domestic communications networks would not be political.
“(To be based) on evidence and facts and analysis of our national security agencies, our communications agencies and conversations with our partners and their communications and determinations around security,” said Trudeau. “Political considerations will not come in to our reflections. We’ll trust our experts.”
Turning to global terrorism, Pence uttered words that Trudeau has been loath to do; that “our armed forces have fought against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism across the Middle East.”
And finally on abortion. Given Trudeau’s hardline, pro-choice position that he demands from his own caucus members, today the PM was forced to share an international stage with a man who has a markedly different take.
Asked about recent abortion prohibition passed by some American states, Pence was unabashed.
“Let me be frank. I’m very proud to be part of a pro-life administration,” he said.