Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he would raise his concerns about “backsliding” on women’s rights in the United States and elsewhere when he meets U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, one of the most prominent American abortion opponents.
Pence is due to travel to Ottawa on Thursday to meet with Trudeau, and the bulk of their discussions were expected to focus on trade issues, like ratifying the new North American trade pact and continuing tensions with China.
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But, asked by a reporter whether he would discuss abortion with Pence, Trudeau replied in French: “You all know my opinion on that. We will always defend women’s rights. I am very concerned about the conservative movement, which is beginning to take away the rights of women in the United States and elsewhere.”
Afterward Trudeau spoke in English, saying he was “very concerned with the situation around the backsliding of women’s rights that we’re seeing through conservative movements here in Canada, in the United States and around the world.”
Asked about Trudeau‘s comments, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters that Pence “is proud that he serves as part of a pro-life administration.”
“We’ll see what it is that is on the prime minister’s mind tomorrow on that subject,” the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. When he was Indiana’s governor, Pence introduced stricter abortion guidelines for the state.
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Trudeau, the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, has always staunchly supported a woman’s right to an abortion. Even Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who has a slight advantage in opinion polls five months ahead of a national election, has said he would not reopen the abortion debate if elected.
In the United States numerous Republican-controlled states — including Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri — have approved restrictive abortion laws that the Supreme Court may be called upon to rule on in the future.
The high court may then have to decide whether various state laws violate rights recognized in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in the United States.
Pence and Trudeau are also expected to discuss their joint dispute with China over Huawei Technologies Co Ltd during a meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, a senior U.S. administration official said.
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Pence, known for taking a hard line against China, will travel to the Canadian capital to discuss trade issues, including Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms network gear maker, which Washington has moved to isolate.
“Canada has been a close ally in the way that they’ve approached their relationship with China – and there could be some conversation about Huawei,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The battle spilled into Canada last year, when the company’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wangzhou was arrested on a U.S. warrant. She faces extradition to the United States on charges she conspired to defraud global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran. She and the company deny the charges.
Shortly after her arrest, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China, and were formally arrested for espionage last week. Canada has called the detentions arbitrary.
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China has also blocked imports of top Canadian commodities in response to the dispute.
“Expect some very tangible outcomes from their discussion with regard to China that we’ll share with you tomorrow,” a second U.S. official told reporters.
The officials declined to say whether Pence would offer Canada assistance on the detentions and the trade stoppages, but noted Pence plans to make a separate address in the coming days about the “current state of affairs” in China.