Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will pay a visit to the White House next week to discuss trade and ask President Donald Trump to lean on China to release two Canadians he says have been “arbitrarily detained,” the government announced Thursday.
The June 20 visit will be his first to Washington since 2017, and will come after once-tense personal relations with Trump appear to have warmed.
“Ahead of the upcoming G20 Osaka Summit, the two leaders will discuss key global challenges, including China”s wrongful detention of two Canadian citizens,” Trudeau”s office said in a statement.
Trump has ramped up his aggressive stance towards China in a bid to pressure Beijing to make a deal with Washington on trade.
Canada was dragged into the fray last December when it arrested a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, during a flight stopover in Vancouver on a US warrant.
In a move widely seen as retaliation and described by observers as “hostage diplomacy,” Beijing detained two Canadians — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.
It later accused Kovrig of espionage and alleged that Spavor provided him with intelligence.
China has also sentenced two other Canadians convicted of drug trafficking to death and blocked Canadian agricultural shipments worth billions of dollars.
Ottawa responded by rallying a dozen countries to its side, including Britain, France, Germany and the United States, as well as the European Union, NATO and the G7.
Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien, who last week offered to act as a special envoy to China in a bid to resolve the crisis, has reportedly urged Trudeau to simply cancel Meng”s extradition case.
But Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected the idea during a trip to Washington on Thursday, telling reporters: “You are a rule of law country, or you are not.” “It would set a very dangerous precedent for Canada to alter its behaviour when it comes to honouring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure,” she said, adding that it “could make all Canadians around the world less safe.” According to Trudeau”s office, he and Trump will also discuss the pending ratification of a new three-way trade agreement with Mexico that was signed last November and will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The pair will also touch on outstanding trade irritants — notably US tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, and a proposal to boost US uranium production that could displace Canadian imports of the element used in warheads and as fuel in nuclear reactors.