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Justin Trudeau heads to NATO summit on the heels of trade fallout with Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a bilateral meeting at the G7 Summit in in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will head to Brussels to attend the NATO summit on July 11, and U.S. President Donald Trump has already begun berating Canada for failing to meet the alliance’s defence spending targets.

In a letter sent on June 19th, Trump criticized allies such as Canada who haven’t increased their defence spending as was promised, and cited the United States’ “growing frustration.”

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He also warned that the U.S. is becoming more impatient with NATO and what Trump described as its “failure” to meet shared security agreements, which is reminiscent of the comments the president made about NAFTA before re-negotiations were launched.

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According to the Office of the Prime Minister, Trudeau is heading to NATO with the intention of discussing trans-Atlantic Security issues, and will re-affirm Canada’s support for Ukraine. The Crimean peninsula was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in March of 2014.

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In the letter, which was written on White House letterhead, the president wrote that the U.S. “is increasingly unwilling to ignore this Alliance’s failure to meet shared security challenges.” He added that while he appreciates Canada’s contributions to defence around the world, they “do not excuse any of us from our commitments to ensure NATO has the resources it needs.”

“This frustration is not confined to our executive branch. The United States Congress has taken note and is concerned as well,” reads the letter, first reported by iPolitics. The Canadian Press has confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

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The letter comes at a time when Canada-U.S. relations are already strained, and Trump and Trudeau are at a standoffl over trade. In recent months, the U.S. president has placed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada and has gone so far as to threaten the auto and dairy industries with tariffs and trade barriers as well.

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That relationship took an ugly turn following the recent G7 summit in Quebec, when Trump called the prime minister “dishonest and weak,” after Trudeau told reporters that Canada would go ahead with placing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports to the tune of approximately CAD $16.5 billion.

The Liberals promised last year to increase spending on the military by 70 per cent over the next 10 years, but that will still leave Canada short of NATO’s target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence.

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The prime minister released a statement addressing the NATO Summit Monday afternoon, reiterating the importance of the alliance to Canada’s security policy.

“NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, and an important alliance as we look for more stability in a world going through rapid change. I look forward to meeting with leaders from NATO member states in Belgium to deepen our already strong relationships, and to discuss what more we can and must do to advance peace and security for our citizens and people around the world,” reads the statement from the Office of the Prime Minister.

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– With a file from the Canadian Press.