WASHINGTON — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured the Trump administration that security is foremost in his country’s mind as the United States and its neighbor to the north take very different routes on refugee admissions.
“One of the things we spoke about was the fact that security and immigration need to work very well together, and certainly Canada has emphasized security as we look toward improving our immigration system and remaining true to the values that we have. And we had a very strong and fruitful discussion on exactly that,” Trudeau said during a relatively brief East Room press conference.
“There’s plenty that we can draw on each other from in terms of how we move forward with a very similar goal, which is to create free, open societies to keep our citizens safe,” he added. “And that’s certainly something that we’re very much in agreement on.”
Asked if he was confident about northern border security as Trudeau welcomes refugees, Trump replied he “can never be totally confident” but has confidence in his Department of Homeland Security.
“I’m just doing what I said I would do when we won by a very, very large electoral college vote and I knew that was going to happen. I knew this was what people were wanting,” he said. “That wasn’t the only reason, that wasn’t my only thing that we did so well on but that was something that was very important and I said we will get the criminals out, the drug lords, the gang members, we’re getting them out.”
Trudeau said his country “has always understood that keeping Canadians safe is one of the fundamental responsibilities of any government and that’s certainly something that we’re very much focused on.”
“At the same time, we continue to pursue our policies of openness toward immigration and refugees without compromising security,” he added. “And part of the reason we’ve been successful in doing that over the past year, welcoming close to 40,000 Syrian refugees, is because we have been coordinating with our allies, United States, and around the world to demonstrate that security comes very seriously to us and that’s something that we continue to deal with.”
Trump declared “we have to let people that can love our country in and I want to do that,” but “we cannot let the wrong people in and I will not allow that to happen during this administration.”
“And people, citizens of our country want that and that’s their attitude too, I will tell you. We are getting such praise for our stance and it’s a stance of common sense. Maybe a certain toughness but it’s really more than toughness, it’s a stance of common sense and we are going to pursue it vigorously and we don’t want to have our country have the kinds of problems that you’re witnessing taking place not only here but all over the world,” the president continued. “We won’t stand for it. We won’t put up with it. We’re just not going to let it happen. We’re going to give ourselves every bit of chance so that things go well for the United States, and they will go well.”
The prime minister noted there have been times when Canada and the United “have differed in our approaches, and that’s always been done firmly and respectfully.”
“The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves,” Trudeau said. “My role, our responsibility, is to continue to govern in such a way that reflects Canadians’ approach and be a positive example in the world.”
Trump said when it comes to renegotiating NAFTA the U.S. will be “tweaking” its agreement with Canada because “it’s a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border.”
Trudeau said NAFTA changes are “a real concern for many Canadians because we know that our economy is very dependent on our bonds, our relationship with the United States. Goods and services do cross the border each way every single day.”
“This means a lot of — millions of jobs for Canadians and good jobs for Canadians,” he added.
Trudeau also announced that he and Trump agreed to form the Canada-United States Council for advancement of woman entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“This initiative is more than just about dollars and cents, this is about ensuring that women have access to the same opportunities as men. And prioritizing the support and empowerment of women who are senior business leaders and entrepreneurs,” the prime minister said. “In doing so, we’ll grow the Canadian and the American economies and help our businesses prosper.”
At a roundtable with Trudeau, Ivanka Trump and business leaders earlier in the day, Trump said “in order to create economic growth and lots of very good, well-paying jobs, we must ensure that our economy is a place where women can work and thrive, and I think that’s happening in the United States much more so.”
“And I guess pretty much all entrepreneurs, we have to help them out because the system is not working so well for entrepreneurs getting capital,” he said. “But it’s in particular difficult for women, so we’re going to get access to markets and access to networks.”