President Trump and visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized their shared goal of job creation after their first formal sit-down Monday, helping ease concerns about whether trade tensions between the U.S. and Mexico could reverberate across the continent.
Toward the end of a joint press conference at the White House, Trump acknowledged they would be “tweaking” what he described as the “outstanding” trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada. But Trump made clear America’s northern neighbor is not the chief target of any new trade negotiations.
“It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taking place on the southern border,” Trump said, indicating he’s looking to strengthen the trade relationship with Canada.
“We should coordinate closely, and we will coordinate closely to protect jobs in our hemisphere, and keep wealth on our continent,” Trump said.
Trudeau also stressed the bonds between Americans and Canadians, and touted economic partnerships “that have created good jobs for both of our peoples.”
Trudeau said making sure hard-working families can put food on the table represents a “common goal.” He said millions of jobs depend on “smooth and easy” flow of goods and services across the border.
“At the end of the day, Canada and the U.S. will always remain each other’s most essential partner,” he said.
Relations with the U.S. are crucial as more than 75 percent of Canada's exports go to the U.S., while 18 percent of U.S. exports go to Canada. There are fears among Canadians that they could be hurt as Trump targets Mexico in a re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The two leaders also used the day’s meetings to launch a joint effort to advance women in the workplace, participating in an earlier roundtable discussion on the issue – but trade, as well as immigration, were considered top topics for the Canadian leader’s first face-to-face meeting with the new U.S. president.
Trudeau, age 45, and Trump, age 70, have vastly different outlooks on the world. Trudeau is a liberal who champions free trade and has welcomed 40,000 Syrian refugees. Trump has taken a protectionist stance on trade and wants to crack down on the inflow of migrants and refugees.
Trump, though, once again defended his controversial bid to suspend refugee and other admissions, saying, “We cannot let the wrong people in, and I will not allow that to happen during this administration.”
Trudeau, asked about the issue, said he would not “lecture” Canada’s neighbor on his visit to Washington.
Trump greeted Trudeau earlier Monday with a firm handshake as he arrived at the White House on a blustery morning. The two posed silently before reporters, until Trump suggested they shake hands for the cameras. Trudeau did bring a personal gift -- a photo of Trump with Trudeau's father, the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Trump and Trudeau also issued a joint statement Monday affirming their “longstanding commitment to close cooperation” regarding common challenges. The statement cited “profound shared economic interests,” saying the U.S. and Canada recognize the importance of promoting growth and advancing “free and fair trade.”
The statement said: “We will continue our dialogue on regulatory issues and pursue shared regulatory outcomes that are business-friendly, reduce costs, and increase economic efficiency without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards.”
The statement also cited border security as a “top priority.”
Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter who has been an advocate for policies benefiting working women, was involved in recruiting participants and setting the agenda for the earlier roundtable. Trudeau's close cooperation with Trump and the first daughter could ease some worries among Canadians that the U.S. president will enact protectionist measures that could hurt the Canadian economy.
It also could alleviate some fears that Trump will be as combative with Trudeau as he has been with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.
After Monday's joint press conference, Trudeau headed to Capitol Hill for a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, where the two traded friendly jabs on hockey. Ryan quipped that Trudeau’s country keeps “stealing” hockey players.
“We have better teams,” Trudeau answered. This point could be argued as no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.