Sir John A. MacDonald Building
Ottawa, Canada

2:23 P.M. EDT

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I wanted to begin by thanking Vice President Pence for being here today.  I know that this is your first official visit to Canada, Mr. Vice President, so welcome to Ottawa.

It’s always a pleasure to host our neighbors to the south.  In fact, we’re actually welcoming another American delegation to Canada later today, although I think that the Golden State Warriors will find that our mild-mannered reputation doesn’t extend to basketball.

But, off the court, Canadians and American know that we’re part of the same team.  After all, there are no two countries as fundamentally linked as ours.

(Speaks French.)

Millions of families on both sides of the border depend on the Canada-U.S. partnership.  Look no further than the new NAFTA — a good deal that protects middle-class jobs and helps us build strong communities.  People like Cathy and Rob of Black Fly Beverage Company in London, Ontario, who sell their products not just across Canada but to customers in 11 U.S. states.  They rely on access to the American market.

Or folks like Dario and Brad at the Stelco Steel Company in Hamilton.  They’re just two of the workers that I met earlier this month who can rest easier thanks to the lifting of the steel and aluminum tariffs.

People from Sault Ste. Marie to Sept-Îles told me what great news this is not just for our industries but for the livelihoods they count on to support their families.

Our government is moving forward to ensure that Canadians see the benefits of progressive trade across North America, which is why I introduced legislation yesterday to ratify the new NAFTA.

Later today — later, Vice President Pence and I met with industry and labor leaders to talk about how we can keep advancing this deal and continue driving economic growth that works for everyone.

Of course, there is still progress to be made on the trade file.  Our government will continue to work towards a positive resolution to the U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber.  At the end of the day, our industries and citizens depend on the flow of goods between our two countries.  Take, for example, the fact that Canada is a stable and reliable source of uranium for American civil nuclear reactors.  Maintaining access is good for Canada and the U.S. alike.

By finding solutions to these remaining issues, I know that we will create an even stronger trading relationship.  And just like we’re collaborating to create new opportunities for our workers, Canada and the United States have long known that our world is safer when we work together to protect democracy and the rule of law around the globe.

This afternoon, the Vice President and I spoke about the concerning situation in Venezuela.  Our government remains committed to the importance of finding a peaceful return to democracy and stability for Venezuelans.

The Vice President and I also discussed the arbitrary detention of two Canadians in China.  Leaders from around the world are standing firmly with Canada as we work to end this dispute with China — something that I spoke with President Trump about earlier this month.

Our first priority as government is to make sure that our citizens are released.  I know that Canada and the U.S. are united by our commitment to constructive engagement with China that demonstrates respect for the rule of law, human rights, and open, predictable, and non-discriminatory trade.

The bonds of friendship and respect that Canada and the United States have forged will grow stronger as Canadians and Americans continue to build a more peaceful world abroad and thriving economies at home.

Again, I want to thank Vice President Pence for being here today.  I’m now happy to pass it over to the Vice President, and I’ll be happy to take questions from media.

Mike.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Thank you, Prime Minister Trudeau.  Thank you for those very gracious words about the strong relationship between the United States of America and Canada.

Karen and I couldn’t be more grateful for your warm
hospitality and the warm welcome of people all across this capital city.  And I thank you for that.

You’ve been an attentive host, which is a little bit surprising, because, frankly, we thought you’d be a little more preoccupied with tonight’s basketball game.  So let me take this opportunity to congratulate you and all of Canada on a historic first: the Toronto Raptors’ first-ever appearance in the NBA finals.  I know where your loyalties are, and you know where my loyalties are.  It’s going to be a great game and a great playoff.

I will say it was unfortunate that, as part of our trade negotiations, we were not able to discuss reacquiring Kawhi Leonard and returning him to the United States, but maybe that can be an issue we take up in the future.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  (Inaudible.)

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Mr. Prime Minister, it’s an honor for us to be here today in the beautiful city of Ottawa, for my first visit to Canada as Vice President of the United States.

I’m honored to be ­­here today on behalf of a friend of yours and a great friend to the Canadian people, President Donald Trump.  President Trump asked me to be here today to reaffirm one of the most successful partnerships between any two nations in the world: a partnership between the United States and Canada.

As the President said two years ago, in his words, “Our two nations share much more than a border.  We share the same values.”  And as we just discussed, we have our occasional differences.  But at our core, both of our nations share a love for freedom.  And on that foundation, we’re building even greater prosperity in the years ahead.

Now, we’ve made much progress on a wide range of issues over the past two years, for the United States and Canada, we know, are strongest when we stand together.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, we meet at a time when the American economy, I’m happy to report, is growing like never before.  Under President Trump’s leadership, we’ve cut taxes, rolled back regulations, unleashed American energy.  And the results have been extraordinary, and I know they’ve been felt here in Canada.

In our country, we’ve created 5.8 million new jobs, including nearly half a million manufacturing jobs.  And our economy grew by 3.1 percent last quarter.  And the unemployment rate hit its lowest level in 50 years, with wages rising at their fastest pace in more than a decade.

But President Trump also promised that we would “[turn] the page on decades of unfair trade deals” — trade deals that
sacrificed our prosperity and, too often, in his words, “shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our nation’s wealth.”  And that’s the reason that brings us together here today, and the progress that we have made in renegotiating a trading relationship, an economic relationship, between our two nations that will benefit both our countries.

Free, fair, and reciprocal trade, we believe, is absolutely vital to both of our nations.  Last year, trade between the United States and Canada totaled more than $714 billion.  In fact, nearly $2 billion in commerce and 400,000 people cross our border every single day.  The United States also is Canada’s top foreign direct investor.  We invest nearly as much each year as every other nation in the world combined.  And more than 1.5 million American jobs rely on exports to Canada.

But because it was negotiated a quarter of a century ago, as you recognize, Mr. Prime Minister, and as did President Trump, the current North American Free Trade Agreement is just simply out of date.  That’s why, just four months into our administration, the President directed our United States Trade Representative to begin talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate and replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.  And we’re well on our way.

Mr. Prime Minister, I remember when we spoke about these negotiations early on in our administration.  It was at a meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, in July of 2017.  You spoke about the issue.  I spoke about the issue.  And when we met again at talks — as talks progressed, and we talked in Lima, Peru, during the Summit of the Americas last year, I saw your determination — your determination to drive a hard bargain for Canada, just as President Trump was driving a hard bargain for the United States for America.

But the President and I are truly grateful.  We’re truly grateful for your determination to see this agreement reached.

It took more than a year of work, but in November of last year, President Trump met with you and President Peña Nieto of Mexico in Argentina, and there, the three of you signed what will be, for us, the largest trade deal in American history.  The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement is forged.

As the President said, the USMCA is a win for American jobs and American workers.  But as I said to you the first time we met, we believe the USMCA is also a win-win-win for all three of our nations.  It’s superior to NAFTA in virtually every respect, and it will, as the President has said, lead “to much greater growth and opportunity throughout our countries and across North America” once it’s ratified.

Since we signed the USMCA, we’re pleased with the progress that we’ve made to approve the deal.  Just last week, our three countries reached a deal that lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico in exchange for reciprocal cuts to tariffs on American goods.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, I know the President and our entire team are grateful for your willingness to work with us and resolve the issues associated with those tariffs.

And I’m grateful to hear again today that, just yesterday, your introduced legislation, here in the House of Commons, to implement the USMCA in Canada.  So, on behalf of President Trump and the American people, let me thank you for your leadership and your partnership in the cause of our shared prosperity.

And I can assure you that the President and I are working with members of the United States Congress to pass the USMCA and pass the USMCA this summer.

For too long, we’ve allowed an outdated trade deal to hurt good-paying jobs that built our middle class in your country and in ours.  The USMCA simply is an idea whose time has come, and once it becomes the agreement between our nations, the law of the land, the people of the United States and Canada, we believe, will flourish like never before.

Prime Minister, as we work together to pass this historic trade deal, we’re also standing strong.  We’re standing strong for our shared values on the world stage.  And I was pleased to speak to you about our mutual interests in our meeting today: democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

To that end, the United States today renews our call on the Chinese government to release the two Canadian citizens who have been wrongfully detained for the last six months without due process of law.  And we stand with Canada in this cause, and we will continue to until your citizens are restored.

We know you will not be intimidated by the use of coercive tactics — and neither will we.

And finally, as we discussed earlier, let me thank you for the strong stand that you and Canada have taken in support of a free and democratic Venezuela.  The United States was the first nation on Earth to recognize Interim President Juan Guaidó as the legitimate President of Venezuela.  And Canada has been by our side, and by the side of the Venezuelan people, every step of the way.

Canada has imposed sanctions on 113 of the dictator’s cronies.  You’ve promoted the cause of freedom and free Venezuela inside the Lima Group and the OAS.  And the two of us have said, with one voice, that Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolás Maduro must go.

But now, Mr. Prime Minister, as you know well, and as we discussed, we must continue to work together to hold Maduro accountable for his actions that are impoverishing his nation and oppressing his people.  We also need to work together to expose the malign influence of Cuba within Venezuela and call upon Cuba to cease that influence and allow Venezuela’s freedom to flourish.

And we must stand together with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy are restored.  And, Mr. Prime Minister, I can assure you that we will.

Under President Trump, America’s commitment to liberty in this hemisphere of freedom has never been stronger.  And, Prime Minister Trudeau, we look forward to working with you to build on our progress together, on a shared commitment to the values of freedom and liberty.

The United States and Canada have stood shoulder to shoulder in the defense of freedom for generations.  Our ancestors fought side by side in the great conflicts of the 20th century.  And in recent years, our armed forces have fought against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism across the Middle East.  And both of our nations have endured great sacrifice.

You know, as I shared with you earlier, Mr. Prime Minister, on my many trips overseas to visit American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, I never remember a time that I didn’t see the flag of Canada flying over the base that I was visiting in Bagram or Baghdad.  You were always there.  And the Canadian people have the thanks of the American people for your commitment to freedom and to our shared security.

The United States will always honor this alliance — this alliance for freedom.  And we will always honor the sacrifice of soldiers of both of our nations.  And later today, it will be my honor, along with my wife Karen, to pay our respects to the American and Canadian patriots, who stepped up to serve, when we visit the National Military Cemetery at Beechwood.

As I reflected on at our Arlington National Cemetery this last weekend, we, in both of our nations, owe a debt to these heroes that we can never fully repay.  But we will always honor the service and sacrifice of all of those who have worn the uniform in the defense of freedom in the United States, and in Canada, and among all our allies.

It’s really thanks to them that our two countries enjoy the peace and prosperity that we do today, unparalleled in the history of the world.  And we’re confident that we’ll continue to advance that prosperity and security for both of our nations for many years to come.

So thank you for the warm welcome here in Canada.  It’s an honor to be with you today and an honor to be able to call into focus in both of our countries the importance, the historic significance, of the USMCA.  It will build on a relationship that’s stronger than ever before.  And the USMCA will create opportunities for prosperity in America and in Canada for generations to come.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.  God bless Canada, and God bless the United States of America.

AIDE:  Steve Chase, with The Globe and Mail.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. Vice President and Prime Minister.  Thank you for taking our questions.  I have a question for you on Huawei and then I’ll have a follow-up after your initial response.  Mr. Pence, how important is it to the United States and why is it important that Canada bar Huawei from 5G wireless networks in this country?

And, Mr. Trudeau, does the U.S. request for this frustrate your ability to secure the release of the Canadians in China?  And in French as well.  Thanks.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Well, thank you for the question.  And let me say we’ve been very clear with Canada and with all of our allies that we consider Huawei incompatible with the security interests of the United States of America or our allies in freedom-loving nations across the world.  We’ve urged our partners in Europe, we continue to urge Canada in this regard, and we continue to have that dialogue.

The simple fact is that the legal framework within China gives the Chinese government access to information and data that is collected by Chinese companies like Huawei.  And to have a 5G network worldwide that has access to sensitive national security information, we believe, is incompatible with the national security interests of the United States.  And we’ll continue to take a firm stand.

We’ll also continue to take steps to promote alternatives in 5G, in our country and in Canada and all across our allies.  We believe we can create and are creating viable alternatives to Huawei that don’t compromise privacy, that don’t compromise security.  We’ll continue to urge our colleagues in that regard.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Canada has been making significant investments in technology, in AI, in research into the next generation of telecommunications and wireless.  And the decisions we make on what our 5G networks will look like, decisions we make around security and opportunity for Canadians will be made on the basis of evidence and facts and analysis by our national security agencies, our communications agencies, and conversations with our partners around their conclusions and their determinations around security.

Political considerations will not come into our reflections.  We trust our experts — our national security and intelligence experts — to make recommendations on how we can ensure that Canadians are safe as we move towards a 5G world.  The basis upon on which we will make our decisions is, as always, on facts and data rather than on political considerations.  That’s what Canadians expect.  That indeed is what the world expects.

(Speaks French.)

Q    And my follow-up question for both of you is on the Canadians detained in China.  Mr. Vice President, can you tell us exactly what the United States is doing to help — assist in securing the release of these two men?  And what is the likelihood the United States would withdraw its extradition request for Ms. Meng?

And, Mr. Trudeau, what more could the United States do?  And would you like to see the United States withdraw the extradition request for Ms. Meng as a part of this?  Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Well, the United States, as I’ve said, has stood strong with Canada on the unlawful detention of the two Canadian citizens.  The Prime Minister and I spoke about it extensively today.  And I can assure you that we’ll continue to stand firmly in that position until those citizens are freed and restored to this nation.

Let me say President Trump will be traveling, along with the Prime Minister, to the G20 in the weeks ahead.  We anticipate he will be meeting with President Xi there.  We’re in the midst of significant discussions over our trading relationship.

But I can assure you, in that context, and going forward, we’re going to continue to urge China to release the Canadian citizens even while we deal with larger economic and structural issues between the United States and China.

We are standing with Canada in this effort.  We respect and are grateful for the strong stand for the rule of law that Canada has taken with regard to the Huawei executive.  And we’ll continue to engage on the issue.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  As people well know, the preoccupation that this government has — that all Canadians have — with the situation of the two Canadians detained in China in an arbitrary manner is significant, and we have reached out to allies around the world to make sure that everyone stands together.  And the United States has been particularly strong and vocal in its condemnation of these arbitrary detentions of Canadians and in their support of Canada.

But, indeed, we’re in a moment where like-minded nations — like Canada and the United States and many of our European and international partners — have expressed their dismay with the way China is stepping forward more assertively and indeed aggressively on the international stage.  And we are all standing together to insure that the rules are followed, that our values are upheld, and that China understands that the economies and democracies of the West are united in our condemnation of these arbitrary detentions for — in attempt to gain political leverage.

(Speaks French.)

AIDE:  Roberta Rampton from Reuters.

Q    Thank you.  Mr. Vice President, I wanted to ask you about the USMCA.  What assurances were you able to give the Prime Minister that you will be able to work with Congress to get it passed this summer given that, last week, President Trump said, among other things in very heated discussion with and about the Speaker, that Speaker Pelosi does not understand the deal?  Should Canada be concerned that this bad blood between the President and the Speaker will cause a roadblock to passage of the USMCA through Congress?

And is his threat made in December to — if Congress doesn’t move quickly enough to notify Congress, that he will formally terminate NAFTA — is that threat still operative?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  The Prime Minister and I discussed the whole process of ratification here in Canada and in the United States, and I assured him that the President and I are absolutely determined to work with rank-and-file in the Congress and the leadership to move the USMCA forward and to move it forward this summer.

Met yesterday with the United States Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer.  He’ll be on Capitol Hill when Congress returns next week, meeting with members of the Democratic majority, working on what’s called the “implementation legislation.”  But those discussions are ongoing.  And as the President said in Japan just a few short days ago, we remain confident that the USMCA will received broad-based support in the Congress if it’s brought to the floor.  And to that end, we’re reaching out to members of Congress.

But also, I’ve been traveling all across the country and telling the story of what the USMCA will mean for jobs, for opportunities.  In every respect, the USMCA is an improvement on NAFTA.  It’s a win for American workers.  It’s a win for American jobs and investment.  And we believe it will create shared prosperity all across North America.

And so, part of my reason for being here today and accepting the invitation to come to Canada is to continue to put a spotlight on the importance this administration is placing on this agreement.

Issues in Washington, D.C. can arise, but the American people should know — and people in Canada should know — that our administration is absolutely committed to driving forward, to seeing the Congress of the United States approve the USMCA this summer.  And we’re grateful for the Prime Minister’s efforts, seeing ratification here in Canada.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  I might add that, here in Canada, as we were moving forward with the renegotiation, there were a number of Canadian conservative politicians who questioned our desire to include strong provisions on the environment, strong provisions on labor, strong provisions on gender and indigenous issues.  And these Canadian conservative politicians were worried that we were distracting from the important work that needed to be part of NAFTA.

But as the Vice President just said, these are integral parts of what makes it a better deal for workers on both sides of the border.  And they are significant things that we looked to the U.S. Democrats to understand are significant improvements and are issues that, like Canadian liberals, they care deeply about.

So we are confident that the word being done on ratification is possible because we made sure that, from multiple angles, this was a better deal for Americans, for Canadians, and for Mexicans.

Q    And if I could follow up on — if I could follow up on Venezuela, if I might?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Okay.  Just — let me just repeat that in French for our —

(Speaks French.)

Q    If I might follow up on Venezuela, please.  Prime Minister, the Vice President has taken a hard line on Cuba’s role in Venezuela and what you just heard him call its “malign influence.”  And Canada has taken a somewhat different approach in Cuba and on Cuba and its role in Venezuela.  I’m wondering whether the Vice President asked you to take a harder line today, and what you’re prepared to do on Cuba and its role in Venezuela.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  I think one of the strengths of the historic friendship and alliance between Canada and the United States is that often we are extremely closely aligned, but in other situations, we have complementary approaches.  We, of course acknowledge, the United States position and perspective on Cuba.  Canada has a very different one.

And in the discussions with the Lima Group that Canada has been leading and discussing, we recognize that Cuba can potentially play a very positive role in the wellbeing and the future stability of Venezuela.  And that is why Canada has been engaging with Cuba in a way that tries to allow for positive engagement in an eventual transition in Venezuela.

It is part of where coming together as different nations — across the Lima Group, across Canada and the United States — with different perspectives but with a shared goal of restoring democracy to Venezuela; of creating peace, stability, and prosperity for the Venezuelan people, where countries with different perspectives can actually help each other reach, hopefully, the right outcomes.

Q    (Speaks French.)  (No translation provided.)

And, Mr. Vice President, for you: How do you feel about the Prime Minister raising the issue of what he called a “backsliding” of abortion rights in your own country?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  (Speaks French.)

I highlighted to the Vice President that there was a significant amount of concern amongst Canadians on the new, anti-choice laws being passed in American — a number of American states, and highlighted that Canadians — and, indeed, this government — will always be a staunch defender of women’s rights and a woman’s right to choose.  It was a cordial conversation, but it is one on which we have very different perspectives.

Q    Did you hear my question?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Could you repeat your question?

Q    Yes, sure.  I asked you how do you feel about the Prime Minister raising what he called, yesterday, a “backsliding” of abortion rights in your own country.

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:   Thank you.  Thank you.

Well, let me say, I think one of the great things about the relationship between the United States and Canada is that we’re able to be candid with one another.  We’re able to share our perspective on a broad range of issues and different approaches.

But let me be clear: I’m very proud to be part of a pro-life administration, and our administration has taken steps to stand for the sanctity of life at home and abroad.  What we find troubling is the Democratic Party in our country and leaders around the country supporting late-term abortion, even infanticide.  But those are debates within the United States, and I know that Canada will deal with those issues in a manner that the people of Canada determine most appropriate.

But for President Trump, for me, for our administration, we’ll always stand for the right to life.

Q    Does it anger you to be sermoned by someone whose country it’s not happening in?

And then, if I could get a follow-up on the “new NAFTA,” as we like to call it here.  Vice President, why should Canada rush to ratify this deal, given that it seems quite uncertain on your side of the border and it seems like it’s pretty much stalled?

(Speaks French.)

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Well, let me reiterate: As the Prime Minister said, we had a very respectful conversation on that issue.  And I know the President appreciates the relationship that he has forged with Prime Minister Trudeau, and so do I.

Look, friends can have differences of opinion and still be friends.  And I think what unites the United States and Canada is a shared commitment to freedom.  It is a shared foundation of values and shared sacrifice through the generations.  And it’s on that foundation that we always stand.  It’s on that foundation that we are working to improve the economic relationship between our two countries.

With regard to the USMCA, let me let me say that we are working very earnestly to see the Congress of the United States approve the USMCA and approve the USMCA this summer.  And we are making significant progress.  I’ve been spending time on Capitol Hill and around the country.  Our trade representative has been meeting with the Democratic leadership in the House.  And we’re in regular consultation with the Senate.

And I truly do believe that we are making progress in the United States, and I reported that to the Prime Minister today.  But we both believe that the opportunity the USMCA provides for all of our nations, and the people of our nations, ought to inform those that are considering approving this agreement with real urgency.

The time for Congress to act is now.  I’m encouraged to see the progress that’s being made here in Canada to approve this agreement.  I want to say, again, meeting with the USMCA Advisory Group here in Canada was very inspiring to me.  It represents the broadest range in ideological perspective and geographic perspective from across this country.

And let me say that as we speak to leaders in our Congress and in our business community and labor leaders around the country, that we hear the same level of support.

And I’m here today not only to reassure the Prime Minister and the people of Canada that we’re driving forward on the USMCA, but also to send word home that, amidst all the other issues that Washington, D.C. spends its time on, this is an issue whose time has come.  And the Congress needs to act, and needs to act in the coming months to prove the USMCA.  And it’ll improve and strengthen a growing American economy, and we know it’ll strengthen the economies of all three of our nations.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  (Speaks French.)

I was very pleased to hear the positive perspective that the Vice President has on the ratification process in the United States.  We very much understand the political debates that are ongoing, but we are also fundamentally confident in the fact that this is a good deal — and, indeed, an improvement — for workers and citizens and families in our three countries.

We worked very, very hard to agree on and sign a text that was that win-win-win that we were looking for.  And Canada certainly doesn’t anticipate having to reopen that text.  I think we all know that reopening negotiations could lead to significant delays in bringing into force a deal that would be — will be good for all sectors in our three economies.

AIDE:  Vivian Salama, Wall Street Journal.

Q    Hi there, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister.  Mr. Vice President, given the recent setbacks in the U.S. trade talks with China, might the Trump administration consider broadening the discussions to include allies in the talks, including Canada, given some of the overlapping issues?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Well, that would ultimately be a decision for the President.  But what I can tell you is that our discussions with China are between the United States and China.  Our focus is on trying to set right what for too long has been unfair to American workers and American jobs and American businesses.

And while China, today, is fully half of the United States’ international trade deficit, we’ve made it very clear in our negotiations that we are as focused on the structural issues. Those are issues that the Prime Minister and I have talked about today and we’ve talked about in the past — the issues of intellectual property rights, of forced technology transfers.

It’s absolutely essential for us to make progress that China step forward and embrace the international rules that govern all economic transactions and protect private property rights around the world.

So our efforts today are singularly focused on the relationship between the United States and China.  It will remain that way.

But we remain hopeful that when President Trump meets with President Xi at the G20, that there may be progress.  But I will say that President Trump believes we’re in a strong position either way — that we’ve imposed more than $250 billion in tariffs.  We can more than double that.  And the President is absolutely determined to take such steps that are necessary to protect American jobs and American workers, and maintain that posture unless and until China steps forward with the kind of reforms that will not only reset the imbalance of trade between our countries, but also — also will have China step forward and embrace the international rules that govern our relationships, that govern market relationships around the world.

So that’s our focus and that’s the core of the negotiations.  And as the President always says, “We’ll see.”

Q    A quick follow-up, please, on a domestic issue, Mr. Vice President.  Can you tell us what the appetite at the moment is, at the White House and the Hill, for a two-year budget deal and debt limit?

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  With regard to a two-year budget deal and a caps deal, I know that we’re in regular discussions with Democrat and Republican leadership.  One of the things the President and I are probably proudest of is our efforts to rebuild the military, making historic investments in our national defense — $700 billion in our first budget, $716 [billion].  We submitted a budget of $750 [billion].

It’s absolutely essential for American national security and, frankly, for this alliance that we continue to make the investments in our national defense that are necessary.  And so we’re committed to continuing to work to determine whether we can reach what’s known as a caps deal, as you know — an agreement where then the Congress could then operate and appropriate within those guidelines.

And there’s been talk of a two-year agreement, but all those discussions are ongoing, and they’re happening in good faith, just as much as the discussions on the USMCA are happening.

You know, there’s a lot that Washington, D.C. and the media focuses on, on any given day in Washington, D.C.  But the American people can be encouraged that we’re continuing to make the case for the USMCA — a trade deal that’s going to create jobs all across the United States and increase our prosperity.  And we’re going to continue to work to make sure that our Congress is able to provide the kind of funding for our national defense and for vital domestic programs that’ll strengthen that growing American economy.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Two quick questions for the Prime Minister, if I could.

AIDE:  Thank you.  Last question.

Q    Okay.  So can you tell us how important the lifting of the steel and aluminum tariffs were for ratification here in Canada?  Would you be pushing for ratification if those tariffs were still in place?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  We recognize that the continued steel and aluminum tariffs on the Canadian steel and aluminum sector were a significant impediment to moving forward with the ratification of the USMCA.  We feel that, as we are moving forward on a historic free trade deal, the continued imposition of tariffs — particularly tariffs based on a national security pretext on Canada — didn’t make a lot of sense.

We responded immediately to those tariffs last summer with countermeasures on American products in the equivalent realm, and it became very clear over the course of the past year that the existence of those tariffs on both sides were an impediment to success for workers, for citizens on both sides of the border.  So we were very pleased when the American administration proceeded with a full lift of those tariffs.

We recognize we’re in a context where the global aluminum and steel trade is of concern to our domestic industries, but we very much feel that working together, as we are, on supporting our workers and our industries is not just in our own singular best interest but in the interest of the North American economy.  And that’s why we are so pleased that we were able to move forward in the right way to protect workers on both sides of the border with the lifting of those tariffs.

END