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U.S. President Donald Trump said he would do “anything” he could to see China release two Canadians held by the communist state.
Trump made the remarks during a press scrum at the White House on Thursday, where he welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for talks about ratifying the new United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We have a meeting set up with President Xi, obviously on the big transaction we’re negotiating,” said Trump at the Oval Office confab. “Anything I can do to help Canada I will be doing.”
“I don’t know, are you trying to get a meeting?” said Trump who looked to Trudeau.
“We’ve got a lot of things to discuss.” said Trudeau.
Trump added that “I would (speak to the Chinese), at Justin’s request. I would absolutely.”
The Canadian government’s attempts to engage China on the matter have thus far been rebuffed by the regime. However, the United States and China are expected to conduct separate negotiations at the upcoming G20 in Osaka, Japan to address the ongoing trade war between economic giants.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by China at the end of last year—apparent retaliation for the our arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou as she transited through Vancouver last December.
She remains slated for extradition to the U.S., accused of violating American sanctions against Iran.
Adding to the complexity of the three-way diplomatic conflagration is Huawei’s 5G technology that Trump has given mixed signals about.
Previously, the U.S. president said he would ban it entirely from American cell networks, but during his visit England earlier in June, intimated the matter could form part of trade negotiations with China.
During a wide-ranging scrum in the Oval Office, the American press was more preoccupied with an escalating conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Last week, the United States accused the regime of attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman
“Iran made a big mistake. The drone was in international waters, clearly and we have it all documented scientifically,” said Trump.
Asked if he would respond militarily, Trump said “You’ll find out.”
On the trade file, the new NAFTA or USMCA, still requires ratification by the U.S. and Canadian legislatures. Mexico’s Senate moved to ratify the agreement on Wednesday.
Trudeau’s D.C. jaunt comes less than five months before the federal election and is as much about refreshing relations with Canada’s closest ally and largest trading partner as it is about showing Canadian voters that he can manage statecraft.
And the brief Oval Office engagement today suggested that past tensions between Trudeau and Trump have subsided. It was little more than a year ago that the U.S. president lambasted Trudeau on Twitter for being “meek and mild” during their face-to-face dealings at the Charlevoix G7 in Québec.
In the withering cyber missive, Trump said the PM was “weak and dishonest” after Air Force One’s departure, when Trudeau suggested Trump bullied him over trade.
“Canadians are polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around,” Trudeau told international media at the summit’s close while Trump was already aboard Air Force One en route to Singapore for his much-anticipated meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump retaliated by rescinding his endorsement of the joint G7 statement and as the U.S. president is prone to do, doubled down three days later in Singapore, suggesting Trudeau was dope for talking tough out of earshot.
“Justin didn’t know Air Force One has 20 televisions,” said Trump, while his trade pitbull Peter Navarro continued the spat stateside on CNN declaring “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader who engages in bad faith.”
It would be three months before the men spoke again as free trade negotiations slogged on between the two countries and a deal was reached in late 2018.