One is a self-described feminist who champions trade and has opened Canada’s doors to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. The other has sought to curb abortions, threatened to tear up the Nafta trade deal and temporarily halted the admission of refugees to the US.
Between them sits a border crossed by nearly 400,000 people each day – the nexus of a deeply intertwined relationship that has spawned millions of jobs and cooperation on everything from intelligence to climate change action.
On Monday, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, will travel to Washington for his first meeting with Donald Trump, in a high stakes encounter with the US president that will set the tone of Canada-US relations for years to come.
Much is on the line; while the youthful Canadian leader has gained a global reputation for his views on gender equality, LGBT rights and immigration, three-quarters of Canada’s exports go the US and roughly 2.5 million Canadian jobs depend on American trade.
“I feel like we’re on a hijacked aircraft and we have to be as reasonable as possible to the pilot who is locked in the front,” said John Higginbotham, a senior fellow at Carleton University and the Centre for International Governance Innovation. “We’re really different from the US and this has accentuated those differences.”
As news of Monday’s meeting broke, Trudeau hinted at the – at times competing – responsibilities he shoulders when it come to US relations. “The first is, of course, to highlight Canadian values and principles and the things that keep our country strong,” he told reporters on Thursday. “The second responsibility that I have … is creating jobs and opportunity for Canadian citizens through the continued close integration on both sides of the border.”