Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump talk softwood lumber, steel during phone call

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed defence spending and trade between their two countries during a phone call on Friday.

According to an account provided by the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders “noted in particular the highly integrated North American steel industry and softwood lumber.”

Trump’s administration slapped punishing duties on Canadian softwood lumber in April after taking up the long held argument of the U.S. lumber industry that softwood lumber imports are unfairly subsidized.

Just earlier this week Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada and the United States remain “quite far apart” on negotiating a softwood lumber settlement.

The president has also signed a presidential memorandum directing his Department of Commerce to investigate the national security implications of importing foreign-made steel. 

Trump

President Donald Trump show off the signed executive memorandum on investigation of steel imports, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. United Steel Workers International President Leo W. Gerard, left, looks at the pen that was used to sign the document. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Both industries are expected to be irritants once the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation between the U.S., Canada and Mexico swing into high gear late this summer.

Defence plan gets the thumbs up

The White House readout didn’t specifically mention steel or softwood, only adding that the two leaders discussed “various aspects of the strong bilateral relationship between their two countries.”

The White House did say Trump commended Trudeau for increasing military spending by 70 per cent over the next decade.

The Liberal government’s recently released defence policy would bring defence spending up to $32.7 billion by 2026–27. The plan calls for a bolstered fleet, adding 88 new fighter jets and 15 warships.

President Trump underscored the solid alliance that the United States enjoys with Canada,” reads the White House handout.

Canada has been under pressure, notably from the Trump administration, to increase defence spending to meet the NATO benchmark standard of two per cent of the gross domestic product.

The Prime Minister’s Office added that the leaders look “forward to seeing each other at upcoming international meetings.”

The statements made no mention if the two leaders discussed Cuba. Earlier Friday Trump restored some of the travel and economic restrictions on the island nation that had been lifted by former president Barack Obama.

That move was immediately met with a reaffirmation of Canada’s longstanding policy towards Cuba by Trudeau.

“We have tremendous respect and a constructive relationship with the United States, but in the matter of Cuba there’s always been a certain amount of disagreement,” he said at a news conference on Parliament hill with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. 


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