Trudeau and Trump talk about border, softwood lumber and next summits
Prime minister and U.S. president speak by phone after meeting in Washington last week
Border co-operation and softwood lumber were discussed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump during a phone call between the two leaders on Thursday, according to an account provided by the Prime Minister's Office.
Trudeau and Trump "discussed a range of bilateral relations issues, including border co-operation, moving forward on the softwood lumber file, and the upcoming G7 and G20 summits," the PMO said in a statement.
The prime minister and U.S. president "also looked forward to working together on the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders," which was announced when Trudeau and Trump met at the White House last week.
A senior Liberal said the phone call was conducted at the request of the Canadian government.
According to a statement issued by the White House, "President Trump emphasized the importance of working closely with Canada on cross-border issues, including implementation of his administration's actions to protect America from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals and others."
Those plans kicked off in earnest at the end of January when Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya — from entering the U.S.
The ban was halted by a U.S. court and an attempt by the Trump administration to have the court's decision overturned failed. The White House decided not to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and instead Trump promised he will introduce a new executive order on immigration soon.
Combined with a promised crackdown on illegal immigrants across the U.S., Trump's immigration policies have set off a political firestorm both north and south of the Canada-U.S. border.
Illegal border crossings
In recent weeks, there's been an increase in asylum seekers in the U.S. illegally crossing into Manitoba and Quebec, travelling overland through sub-zero temperatures.
Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, in most cases refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in — meaning border officials would send back to the U.S. any would-be refugee claimants arriving at an official border crossing.
Those who are caught crossing into Canada illegally through an unmanned part of the border are taken into custody by the RCMP, where they undergo a series of identification checks before being turned over to the Canada Border Services Agency for processing.
Opposition parties are pressuring the Liberal government to act to stop illegal border crossings.
The Conservatives want the federal government to stop people illegally entering Canada. The NDP, however, want the federal government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement so refugees will stop taking safety risks to avoid crossing at an official CBSA point of entry.
So far, the Liberal government has not indicated it will suspend the agreement, leading to criticism from some that asylum seekers are being abandoned to the cold.
Softwood lumber struggles
The White House statement made no mention of softwood lumber, the women's business council or the G7 and G20 summits.
The last agreement on Canadian exports of softwood lumber to the United States expired in 2015. A one-year moratorium on further litigation expired last October.
"I'm really pleased to say that, as the prime minister did in Washington last week, he raised again the issue of softwood lumber," Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday. "So we are working away at that."
At a news conference after their meeting in Washington Feb. 13, the prime minister and the president conveyed their shared concerns for economic growth and national security, though Trump did suggest he would be looking to "tweak" the North American Free Trade Agreement.