Trudeau to hold first post-election meeting with Trump on NATO sidelines

LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday on the sidelines of a major gathering of NATO leaders.

The meeting between the Canadian and American leaders is the first since Trudeau won re-election in October and is expected to include discussions about the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico free trade deal.

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The deal has become sharply debated in the U.S., where there are fading hopes Congress will ratify it by the end of the year.

Aside from his meeting with Trump, Trudeau is set to spend much of Tuesday working to strengthen the NATO military alliance, though all eyes in London will be on Trump.

The U.S. president met in the morning with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where he took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron last month had suggested the 70-year-old NATO military alliance was suffering from "brain death" because of a lack of communication and co-ordination between its 29 members. That included Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria without notifying America's allies.

In his meeting with Stoltenberg, Trump lashed out at Macron, saying France needed NATO far more than the U.S., which needed it the least of all allies. Trump did nonetheless say the alliance was important.

Trump has previously waffled between public support for NATO and questioning its worth during his time in the Oval Office, which has raised concerns about the alliance's viability as global instability is on the rise.

For his part, Trudeau will seek to reinforce the importance of NATO during an event with his Dutch counterpart before heading to Buckingham Palace for a formal dinner with the Queen, Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other NATO leaders.

Prior to that, he met with the president of Latvia, where he spoke of Canada's contributions to the alliance — which includes 600 troops that are part of a multinational NATO force positioned there as a check against Russian aggression — and NATO's vital role to Canadian security.

"It is the 70th anniversary of NATO," Trudeau said while Egils Levits. "It is an alliance that is incredibly successful, it has brought together countries who share values, who share perspectives to stand strong in a world that continues to be challenging and uncertain in many ways. This alliance at 70 is extremely important to Canada and to people around the world, and we're going to continue to be dedicated to it."

For his part, Levits thanked Canada for its contributions to Latvian and European security.

"For Latvia, I can say the transatlantic bond — that means Europe and Canada and the U.S. — are the cornerstones of our defence politics and of our foreign politics," he said. "Because NATO is comprised of member states which share the same values: rule of law, democracy. And these values are to be defended. And we both, Canada and Latvia, are ready and willing to do so."

NATO was established by the U.S., Canada and several Western European countries after the Second World War to guard against the Soviet Union.

The alliance has become a cornerstone of Canada's defence from external threats and a driver in its relations with democratic Europe even as it has evolved to face the rise of terrorism, a newly assertive Russia and, more recently, China.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2019.

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