WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Nancy Pelosi, President Donald Trump's most powerful Democratic opponent, during his Thursday visit to the U.S. capital, says the prime minister's office.
In addition to Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Trudeau will meet the Republican leader of the upper chamber of Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell, said Trudeau's spokesman Cameron Ahmad.
"His discussions with them will focus on NAFTA, creating jobs, supporting the middle class, and growing our economic partnership between our two countries," Ahmad said in an email.
Trudeau will also host a reception in Washington on Wednesday night shortly after his arrival, where he will meet with other senators and members of Congress from both parties as well as business leaders, said Ahmad.
"It's an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and discuss trade and NAFTA," he said.
Trudeau's trip to Washington, including his Oval Office meeting on Thursday with Trump, is ostensibly about providing momentum to efforts in both countries to ratify the new North American trade deal. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, is set to replace the current North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump despises and has repeatedly threatened to rip up.
But Trump's success hinges on persuading his Democratic opponents in the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress, to allow the ratification process to get started there. That's where Trudeau could prove handy to Trump.
Pelosi is a veteran California congresswoman who would like to deny Trump a trade victory, but the House Democrats she leads are also working with the administration to address their concerns about the USMCA.
Some Democrats want stronger provisions to enforce new labour standards in Mexico that would raise wages and give unions more power.
Trump's trade czar Robert Lighthizer told the powerful House ways and means committee on Wednesday that he's willing to co-operate with Democrats to move forward on the new trade bill.
"The bill has been public and we have been in negotiations for nine months," he said his second appearance on Capitol Hill in as many days.
He praised Pelosi for her efforts as he did Tuesday before the Senate finance committee, but he's clearly in a hurry to ratify the new trade pact.
"Getting this done sooner rather than later is in everybody's interest. It saves jobs, it helps the economy, it gets certainty in place," said Lighthizer.
Trudeau is waiting for the trade deal to move through the U.S. Congress before putting it to a vote in the House of Commons.
"We are going to make sure we are keeping in step with them, we have an ability to recall Parliament if we need to," he said Wednesday morning, outside his regular meeting with the Liberal caucus in Ottawa. "We will also make sure we are monitoring the pace at which the Americans are ratifying."
He said his meeting with Trump will also be an opportunity to discuss China and global issues on the agenda at next week's G20 leaders' summit. Talks among the leaders of the world's top economies will be held in Osaka, Japan, where themes will include the global economy, trade and investment and innovation.
"We are going to make sure that we can work together to support each other and move together in the right way," he said.
The meeting with Trump on Thursday comes as Canada continues to call for China to release two Canadians whose detentions are widely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver on an American extradition warrant. The U.S. wants Meng Wanzhou to stand trial on charges of fraud related to allegations she lied to U.S. banks to get around sanctions on Iran.
Countries including the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. have spoken out in support of the detained Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
During a visit to Ottawa at the end of May, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence called for China to release Kovrig and Spavor from their "unlawful detention," adding Trump will push Chinese President Xi Jinping on the issue at the G20 meeting.