Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was not prepared to “lecture” US President Donald Trump over immigration during their first face-to-face meeting - but insisted his country’s decision to take in 40,000 Syrian refugees had not compromised national security.
Trump and his counterpart from across the border met at the White House, with the event likely to be best remembered for the photograph of the President offering Trudeau his hand - which became a viral hit after a series of awkward shakes between the Republican and world leaders.
At the press conference later, the two leaders stressed their shared interests - but also their contrasting views.
Responding to questions from reporters, Trump defended his refugee and immigration orders, saying that “we cannot let the wrong people in.”
Trudeau, who leads the Liberal Party, said Canada continues to “pursue our policies of openness”. He said:
“We continue to pursue our policies of openness towards refugees and immigration without compromising our security. Part of the reason why we have been successful in doing that over the past year - welcoming close to 40,000 Syrian refugees - is because we have been co-ordinating with our allies in the United States and around the world. Security is very serious to us.”
Trudeau later noted that there have been times when the two countries “have differed in our approaches”, but insisted:
“The last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they chose to govern themselves.”
Trudeau, billed as a liberal poster boy amid a surge in populism across the world, could not be much different from Trump.
Aside from Canada’s refugee programme contrasting to the US’s troubled travel ban, Trudeau champions free trade, calls himself a feminist and has a Cabinet of 50 percent women. Trump has few women in his Cabinet and has taken a protectionist stance on trade.
Trudeau’s balancing act is likely to be compared to British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first world leader to visit Trump after his election triumph, who also opted to strike a diplomatic tone.
Trump’s travel ban, targeting the seven Muslim-dominated countries, was only announced as the PM left the US.
She was criticised for her slow response condemning the executive order, before the line emerged the UK government saw the policy as “divisive and wrong”.