Former prime minister Stephen Harper has wrapped up a Monday meeting with one of the most senior officials in the Trump administration.
The White House confirmed the meeting between Harper and Larry Kudlow, economic adviser to President Donald Trump, on Monday afternoon but did not say how long it lasted or what the two discussed.
Reports of a potential visit first emerged last week, which said that Harper “blindsided” the Prime Minister’s Office by planning a meeting with John Bolton, the American national security adviser, as well as Kudlow.
However, it appears there was no meeting on Monday with Bolton.
The timing of the meeting comes one day after the Canadian government imposed $16.6 billion worth of Canadian tariffs against American goods.
Those tariffs are in retaliation for steep tariffs imposed on foreign steel and aluminum by Trump on May 31.
However, repeated attempts to confirm the reports of any meeting between Harper and Trump officials were met with silence until after the meeting was completed, and Harper’s team has still not responded to requests for more details about the meeting.
The Prime Minister’s Office has also stayed silent.
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It remains unclear in what capacity Harper met Kudlow or what the focus was of their conversation.
In addition to working as a consultant for his firm, Harper & Associates Consulting, the former prime minister is also a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative and chair of the International Democratic Union, which is an alliance of centre-right political parties.
The visit comes as tensions over trade and tariffs continue to escalate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent Canada Day on a quick cross-country tour between a tomato processing facility and canning plant in Leamington, Ont., and a steel refinery in Regina, where he thanked Canadians for standing up for each other.
“This is who we are,” Trudeau said. “We’re there for each other in times of difficulty, in times of opportunity. We lean on each other and we stand strong and that’s what we do from coast to coast to coast.”
Trump imposed the steel and aluminum tariffs under provisions dealing with so-called “national security threats” to the United States.
Since then, he has alternated between characterizing them as being imposed because of a dislike of the Canadian supply management system and as a negotiating tool that may be removed if Canada and Mexico capitulate to his demands in NAFTA renegotiations.
Prior to arriving at the G7 Summit in Quebec City last month, Trump also threatened to impose tariffs on auto imports if the Canadian retaliatory tariffs went into effect.
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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has warned that Canadian officials are making “detailed” preparations for a robust response if Trump imposes auto tariffs.
“Our preparations in support of the auto sector are equally detailed and our support will be equally firm and clear, and that’s a commitment.”
NAFTA negotiations are expected to enter into what Freeland has described as an “intensive” phase this summer.
Trump, however, said on Sunday he will not sign a deal until after the midterm elections this fall.
With files from the Canadian Press.