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Trade is Trudeau's focus at NATO summit in Washington

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Washington, D.C. -

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Washington, D.C. to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but it’s a domestic focus on trade that is dominating his schedule on the first day of his visit.

The NATO summit officially begins on Tuesday. Before the opening NATO event tomorrow, Trudeau will have already participated in four Team Canada trade meetings with American business executives and lawmakers.

The prime minister is seeking to advance business opportunities for Canadians and will meet with Joshua Bolten, the CEO of the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of big corporations such as Google and Apple.

Trudeau will also sit down with U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader of the House of Representatives. A meeting with Wes Moore, the governor of Maryland is also on Trudeau’s agenda.

The U.S. is Canada’s most important trading partner. Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $1.3 trillion.

According to a senior government source, the talks will centre on strengthening and protecting the supply chain between the U.S. and Canada as it pertains to critical minerals, electric vehicles and semi-conductors.

Who is joining Trudeau?

The prime minister has brought along a delegation of Liberal MPs to take part in some of these trade talks on the periphery of the NATO summit.

They include Anthony Housefather, Vance Badawey, Francesco Sorbara, and James Maloney who are members of the Canada-United States inter-parliamentary group, along with Judy Sgro who chairs the international trade committee and Kody Blois who chairs the agriculture committee.

Defence Minister Bill Blair and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly will participate in the NATO Summit but it’s unclear if they will join in the trade talks. Chair of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association Julie Dzerowicz is also in Washington.

This latest emphasis on Canada-U.S. relations comes after the Prime Minister Trudeau announced a ‘Team Canada’ initiative back in January. The move is aimed at protecting Canada’s interests as it prepares for the NAFTA review and a possible Donald Trump re-election.

Trade Minister Mary Ng and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne are leading the strategy, along with Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman.

Parliamentary reporters were informed of the addition of the trade meetings on the prime minister’s official schedule on Friday.

This Washington, D.C. trip comes just two weeks after the Liberals faced a stinging loss in an Ontario byelection they were expected to win. Since the Toronto-St. Paul’s riding voted Conservative, Trudeau’s leadership has come under intense scrutiny. MPs from within his own caucus and past Liberal cabinet ministers have even called for Trudeau to step down.

U.S. President Joe Biden is facing similar pressure from the Democratic party. After a poor debate performance against former Republican President Donald Trump, more Democrats are clamouring for Biden to abandon his race for the presidency and cede the way for a younger candidate. Big donors are also threatening to stop cutting cheques to fund his race but Biden has said he has no intention of stepping away from his presidential bid.

Likewise, Trudeau and his inner circle have insisted that he is the best Liberal candidate to take on Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre in next year’s election, even though opinion polls put him behind Poilievre by as much as 20 points.

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