Talks to extend Canada-U.S. border closure 'ongoing,' Trudeau says after call with Trump
OTTAWA -- With just one week to go until the current Canada-U.S. border closure agreement expires, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says border discussions with the U.S. are "ongoing," adding that he expects to have more to say later in the week.
This comes as Trudeau spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday morning, though the border was not among the range of topics the prime minister said the two world leaders discussed — despite the looming July 21 deadline.
"Every month we have been able to extend the border closures to all but essential goods and services and those discussions are ongoing with the United States right now as we are a week from the next deadline for closures," Trudeau said.
"We're going to continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe and to keep our economies flowing, we will have more to say later this week I'm sure."
Canada has been under renewed pressure to reopen the shared border, despite surging COVID-19 case numbers in the United States. At the end of June, the U.S. became home to the world’s highest number of reported infections: more than 2.2 million. That number has since soared to more than 3.3 million, according to the New York Times, with more than 134,000 deaths.
Despite these figures, 29 bipartisan members of U.S. Congress penned an open letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair calling on the Canadian government to plan a phased reopening of the Canada-U.S. border and to consider easing existing measures.
"We are asking that the United States and Canada immediately craft a comprehensive framework for phased reopening of the border based on objective metrics and accounting for the varied circumstances across border regions," read the letter, which was published on Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins' website on July 3.
The members of Congress, who represent the northern states along the border, also implored the Canadian government to consider easing restrictions on family members and property owners impeded by the restrictions.
The Canadian government pushed back on the request, with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland's office telling CTVNews.ca in a statement that the health and safety of Canadians is "absolutely priority."
"Decisions about Canada's border are made by Canadians, for Canadians," Freeland's spokesperson Katherine Cuplinskas said in the statement on Friday.
The suggestion was also unpopular with non-politician Canadians, who took to social media to express their staunch opposition.
In response to a tweet from Higgins, who had shared the open letter on his Twitter account, hundreds of Canadians slammed the suggestion.
"No thank you...clean up your backyard before you attempt to enter ours..sincerely Canada," wrote a user who goes by the name @MichelletypoQ.
Another user, @rachelinTO, wrote that "most of our earliest cases came from the U.S. So......that's a firm 'no'. Sorry, eh."
Users called the request "disastrous" and multiple accounts said they’d only be comfortable easing restrictions after seeing improvement in the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
TRUMP, TRUDEAU DISCUSS TARIFF THREAT
While Trudeau did not give any indication in his press conference that he and Trump had touched on the border issue during their phone call on Monday, he did confirm that the two discussed a host of other issues — including China and the two detained Canadians, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the U.S. president’s renewed aluminium tariff threat.
"I impressed upon him that it would be a shame to see tariffs come in between our two countries at a time where we’re celebrating NAFTA , and at a time where we want our businesses and our manufacturers to get going as quickly as possible," Trudeau said.
"We pledged to keep working on it together."
Trudeau also said he told Trump that the pandemic had disrupted the usual supply chains and manufacturing processes, but that this disruption is slowly subsiding.
"That is starting to realign itself, given the economies are starting up again and manufacturing is getting going," Trudeau said.
CTV News confirmed the possibility of the U.S. slapping another set of tariffs on Canada at the end of June. The tariffs would fall under Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act, and the threat comes amid U.S. claims that their aluminum market is being flooded by Canadian product.
Two Canadian sources told CTV News at the time that the announcement is possible in the coming weeks, though to date no formal announcement of tariffs has transpired.
Should the U.S. decide to re-impose tariffs on Canada, it would reopen a trade rift between the two countries that had been healing since a spat just over a year ago, that saw the U.S. impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and Canada answer with tariffs on a wide array of U.S. products including quiche, mayonnaise, and toilet paper.
Trudeau has been outspoken in his defence of Canada's aluminum industry, noting when the possibility of the U.S. imposing new tariffs emerged recently, that the U.S. "needs Canadian aluminum" and would only be hurting its own economy.
"Our economies are so interlinked that punitive actions by the United States administration end up hurting Americans the same way they end up hurting Canadians," Trudeau said at the time.