Canadian Manufacturing

NAFTA, Hong Kong on agenda for Trudeau-Trump bilateral meeting during G7 summit

A snapshot of what will be discussed on the margins of the G7 summit in France

August 23, 2019  The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – White House officials say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have a tete-a-tete with President Donald Trump this weekend on the margins of the G7 summit in France, where their collective grievances with China are sure to dominate the agenda.

Officials say the wide range of issues to be discussed include the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests have been escalating for weeks, sparked by proposed legislation that would have seen some suspects in criminal cases sent to mainland China for trial.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed support for the right to peaceful protest in Hong Kong, earning a rebuke from China, which is already furious with Canada for detaining Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and has retaliated by detaining two Canadians and blocking imports of Canadian canola.

Freeland was front and centre Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who pushed back hard against any suggestion that the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor should be equated with the detention of Meng, who was arrested last December at the behest of the U.S. Justice Department.

Advertisment

She is now awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions.

“These are fundamentally different matters than the Canadian decision to use their due process and the rule of law to behave in a way that’s deeply consistent with the way decent nations work,” Pompeo told a news conference in Ottawa, where he met with Trudeau and Freeland.

“They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they were morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.”

On Friday, China fired back.

“The U.S. and Canada are singing a duet aimed at confusing right and wrong in a political farce,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, according to an English transcript of a news conference posted online.

Geng described the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig as legitimate, saying the pair stand accused of allegedly gathering, stealing and sharing state secrets with foreign intelligence, and that the U.S. has no standing to make public comments about their cases.

“The U.S. choreographed the entire incident involving Ms. Meng Wanzhou and resorted to state power to suppress Chinese high-tech companies,” an incident in which Canada “played a disgraceful role,” he said, according to the transcript.

“The Meng incident is completely different in nature from the cases of the two Canadians. The former is a serious political incident while Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested according to law for suspected crimes endangering China’s national security.”

Also on the agenda for Trudeau and Trump will be their shared commitment to ratifying the new North American Free Trade Agreement – or the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as the U.S. president has christened it.

Mexico has already ratified the continental trade pact; the Trudeau government, which has introduced implementation legislation in the House of Commons, is holding off on final ratification until the deal is ratified in the United States, where Democratic lawmakers are threatening to block the process.