Pence says US-Canada relationship has 'under no circumstances been stronger'

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Before Pence's visit, Trudeau said he planned to raise the issue of "backsliding" abortion rights in the us with the vice president.

"I want to assure the people of Canada that the prime minister drove a hard bargain (on the USMCA), as did our president", he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has yet to make a state visit to Canada, stopping in La Malbaie in the country only briefly for the G7 summit past year.

The ongoing softwood lumber dispute, the detention of two Canadians in China and continued Canadian access to the U.S. market for uranium - now the subject of a U.S. Commerce Department national security investigation - were also discussed during Pence's meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While Pence advocates putting pressure on House Democrats by sending a USMCA implementation package to Capitol Hill, Robert Lighthizer, the USA trade representative, would prefer to find common ground with Pelosi, said the Wall Street Journal, describing division within the administration.

Just after meeting Trudeau, Pence confirmed that the White House submitted a statement of administrative action to the U.S. Congress to speed up a vote on the treaty, prompting Pelosi to say it was "not a positive step".

The U.S. and China are in an escalating trade war that's showing no signs of subsiding, despite the countries trying to work towards a trade deal of their own. He also said they discussed the arrest of the two Canadians extensively, and that Trump will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping about them at the G20 meeting in Japan at the end of June.

Trump said the tariff will increase to 10 per cent on July 1, to 15 per cent on August 1, to 20 per cent on September 1 and to 25 per cent on October 1.

"I will have a broad conversation with the vice president, [in] which of course that'll come up, but we're going to mostly focus on the ratification process of NAFTA and making sure we get good jobs for Canadians", he added. Beijing detained ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on December 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The Trump-Pelosi fight, combined with ongoing disputes over former USA special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign, make a summer ratification "very unlikely", said Todd Tucker, a fellow at the New York-based Roosevelt Institute.

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Newly-elected NDA leaders are likely to meet today, a day after the distribution of portfolios to the 57-member Council of Ministers.

Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have branded the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor as arbitrary.

"That's how we're moving forward today with this legislation - as one Team Canada", he said.

"I think one of the great things about the relationship between the United States and Canada is that we're able to be candid with one another", Mr. Pence said.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to press ahead with street protests after talks with government officials hosted by Norway ended on Wednesday without progress towards resolving the South American country's long-running political crisis.

"While the Canadians rush to approve this deal, Congressional Democrats remain committed to making key changes to the core of the agreement that will include strong labour and environmental standards and enforcement and remove the monopoly rights for Big Pharma", said Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

In Washington, debate continues in Congress over the final agreement.

And in the lead-up to Canada's federal election in October, Trudeau and the Liberals have been stoking the abortion issue, positioning themselves as champions of women's "right to choose", and the Conservatives as a threat.

Trudeau reiterated the Canadian view that the deal is done, and not open to further negotiation.

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