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Trump Discusses Trade, Immigration With Canadian Prime Minister


President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met for the first time at the White House today. The United States and Canada share a 4,000 mile border, and they have a robust trading relationship and a strong military alliance. They also have leaders with very different styles. The two tried to focus on things they agree upon today rather than what divides them.

NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now with the details. Hi there, Scott.


MCEVERS: So let's start with one of the biggest divides between these two leaders, and that is their approach to refugees. How did Trump and Trudeau paper over that today?

HORSLEY: Yeah, this is a big divide. You know, Canada has taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, while President Trump now wants to close the door to those refugees. The day after the president announced his travel ban, Prime Minister Trudeau took to Twitter with just the opposite message, saying refugees are welcome in Canada. He even tweeted a picture of himself personally greeting a refugee from Syria. Trudeau believes that the current system of vetting is adequate and that his country can take in refugees without compromising public safety. But even though his views on this subject are diametrically opposed to the American president's, Trudeau says he can disagree respectfully.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves.

MCEVERS: As we know, Trump's efforts to close the door to refugees has been held up by the federal courts. The president, though, doesn't appear to be backing away from that goal. What did he say about that today?

HORSLEY: As he did last week when he was meeting with Japan's prime minister, Trump again painted an ominous picture of a dangerous world out there with threats behind every corner. He said there are problems all over the Middle East, in just about every corner of the globe. And while the courts have temporarily halted his travel ban, Trump defended that ban as a common sense policy.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to let people that can love our country in, and I want to do that. We want to have a big beautiful open door. And we want people to come in and come in our country, but we cannot let the wrong people in.

HORSLEY: At the same time, Trump is defending his administration's effort to expel some people who are already in this country illegally. Over the last week or so, immigration officers have been rounding up hundreds of people for deportation, about three-quarters of them with criminal records. And Trump said today he's simply fulfilling the promises he made during last year's campaign.

MCEVERS: Another thing President Trump has been very critical of is NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Most of his criticism appears to be aimed south at Mexico. Canada, of course, is the other big player in NAFTA. Does the president want to shake that up as well?

HORSLEY: He says he wants to tweak the trading relationship with Canada, but not make the kind of wholesale change as he's talked about with Mexico. Whereas the U.S. has a sizable trade deficit with Mexico, exports and imports to Canada are just about evenly balanced. And for his part, Trudeau is eager to preserve that trading relationship. You know, the Canadian economy is heavily dependent on unfettered access to the U.S. market.


TRUDEAU: Millions of good jobs on both sides of the border depend on the smooth and easy flow of goods and services and people back and forth across our border.

MCEVERS: Trudeau and Trump also hosted a roundtable discussion today about women in the workforce. That's an issue the president's daughter Ivanka Trump has talked about. What do the leaders of the U.S. and Canada hope to accomplish with this?

HORSLEY: They want to make it easier for women to balance their working responsibilities and their family obligations. They also want to make it easier for business - women business owners to get access to capital. Ivanka Trump was at that roundtable where they announced the formation of the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs. This is also an issue that is close to the Canadian prime minister's heart. Justin Trudeau has a Cabinet that is made up fully half with women. Donald Trump has chosen four women to serve in his cabinet of 23.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you very much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.