Politics

Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland heading to Washington on trade mission with premiers

Canada’s deputy prime minister is heading to Washington later this week to facilitate high-level trade meetings with the Trump administration for five Canadian premiers, according to sources who spoke to CBC News.

Premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, N.B. and Saskatchewan to attend meetings with U.S. officials, governors

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is going to Washington D.C. this week with five provincial premiers, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, left, for meetings with U.S. officials. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

Canada's deputy prime minister is heading to Washington later this week to facilitate high-level trade meetings with the Trump administration for five Canadian premiers.

The Prime Minister's Office announced Chrystia Freeland's visit in a release Wednesday afternoon but provided few details.

But sources who spoke to CBC News on condition of confidentiality confirmed that Freeland will be in D.C. Friday and Saturday with the premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

They are scheduled to gather at the U.S. Trade Representative's office near the White House on Friday for meetings with Robert Lighthizer and other senior staffers, according to one of the sources.

Although the main irritant in the Canada-U.S. trading relationship is nearly settled — now that Ottawa is inching closer to ratifying the revised North American Free Trade Agreement — there are several outstanding issues that also require attention, sources told CBC News.

Premiers are keen to discuss U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, the U.S. "buy American" procurement policy and challenges related to the Canadian energy sector.

The premiers are also expected to attend several sessions of the National Governors Association's meetings, which take place this weekend. 

Freeland will not be at any of those meetings, but she will be spending time with Canada's acting ambassador to the U.S. 

Kirsten Hillman is expected to eventually be appointed as full-time ambassador. 

As CBC News has previously reported, the Prime Minister's Office is being urged by the former ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, to give Hillman the role, which would make her the first woman to take the high-profile post.

Sources would not confirm any timeline on an appointment of a new ambassador. Hillman has been serving in the position in an acting capacity since September, when MacNaughton left public life to go to the private sector. 

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