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Trudeau and Trump to meet 'soon' on trade and security

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have pledged to meet, but a high-profile visit to Parliament any time soon seems unlikely.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have pledged to meet, but a high-profile visit to Parliament any time soon seems unlikely.

Sources familiar with the Trudeau government's plans say Canadian officials are worried that mass protests would disrupt Mr. Trump's visit to Canada, and that view has been shared with the President's team.

Instead, it appears more probable that Mr. Trudeau would travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Trump.

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Read more: Trudeau promotes former general Andrew Leslie to forge closer ties with U.S.

Read more: Canada given advance notice of Trump's NAFTA demands

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The two leaders talked on the phone on Saturday and discussed meeting "soon," the Prime Minister's Office said, although it wasn't entirely clear when or in which country.

At the swearing-in ceremony for White House staff on Sunday, Mr. Trump confirmed he will meet with Mr. Trudeau, but didn't offer a timeline. He also said he'll be meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and will start negotiations on the North American free-trade agreement and "on immigration and on security at the border."

Mr. Trump's comments come as Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet meet in Calgary for two days to discuss, in large part, the new reality of Canada-U.S. relations.

David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the United States, arrived in Calgary Sunday evening in order to brief cabinet at the retreat.

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He told reporters that an announcement regarding the first meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Trudeau will be made soon. He said the location has not yet been determined.

The ambassador went on to suggest that Canada's trade talks with the United States will go beyond NAFTA to include issues that only involve Canada and the United States. He said his initial talks with the new administration suggest Trump and his officials are not particularly concerned with the Canada-U.S. relationship.

"They're principally focused on the countries that have large trade deficits with them … I don't think Canada's the focus at all," he said, but noted NAFTA is clearly up for discussion. "That's what we've got to worry about is that we're collateral damage. And so part of this is just making sure that they understand how important Canada is to their economy."

This weekend was defined by Mr. Trump's protectionist rhetoric and a pledge to put "America first," followed by protests around the world.

About two million women across the globe, including tens of thousands in Canada, participated in women's rights marches on Saturday to protest against Mr. Trump's presidency. On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau tweeted a note of support to marchers in this country.

"Congratulations to the women and men across Canada who came out [Saturday] to support women's rights," Mr. Trudeau wrote.

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"You keep your government inspired."

Recent presidents have typically made a trip to Canada as their first foreign visit, although in 2001, President George W. Bush went to Mexico first. British Prime Minister Theresa May will be the first foreign leader to visit the United States, later this week.

One senior Canadian official said that if Mr. Trump were to hold off on visiting Canada for several months, it should not be taken as a sign that relations between Canada and the United States are frosty.

"Actually, we're getting along quite well with these guys," said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

"Just because Trump may not come here first, doesn't mean there may not be a meeting soon in Washington," the official said, adding there was no knowledge of such a meeting yet.

The official said that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and senior PMO officials are in daily contact with Mr. Trump's team.

"They are saying very nice things to us. They're saying they love Canada," the official said.

"We feel better now than we did, say, two months ago when we didn't know these guys."

Retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, who has been tasked to take on "special responsibilities" on the Canada-U.S. file as Ms. Freeland's parliamentary secretary, told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Trudeau is strategically establishing a network of people with close ties to the United States.

Mr. Leslie, a Liberal MP since 2015, said he spent much of his 35-year career in the company of American soldiers, mainly as an army commander in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010, but also as part of the security transition force in the former Yugoslavia.

He said that during the Afghan war he was in the United States every two weeks, working with the U.S. army's chief of staff as well as major organizations.

He is on good terms with Mr. Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn, a former Army lieutenant-general, and Secretary of Defence James Mattis, a retired Marine general.

"Gen. Mattis is a very knowledgeable, scholarly warrior, and Gen. Flynn is arguably one of the world's experts on intelligence. So they're unique choices," Mr. Leslie said.

"I would argue they are very well-educated, very pragmatic, very proud of their country, very loyal to the institutions that have raised them, very determined and very forceful."

He added that Mr. Trump will soon fill thousands of positions in Washington, and he believes a significant number of those will be ex-military officials.

"They all will know of the value of having Canadians alongside you, when it comes time to do either peacekeeping, peacemaking or responding to a crisis," he said.

"We've established a reputation earned in blood of being there when the chips are down, and being tough and determined, and getting the job done."

Mr. Leslie said his message to Canadians right now is to keep calm and carry on, while Canadian officials continue their discussions with the Americans.

"The whole idea is talk. Dialogue. Because in the absence of dialogue, in the absence of personal contacts and relationships, when things get a little bit tense, then unpredictability kicks in. People get even more anxious," he said.

"And that's when mistakes are made."

With reports from Adrian Morrow in Washington and Bill Curry in Calgary

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Laura Stone is a reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau. She joined The Globe in February 2016. Before that, she was an online and TV reporter for Global News in Ottawa. Laura has done stints at the Toronto Star, Postmedia News and the Vancouver Province. More

Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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