Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) meets with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. Photo taken June 8, 2018. (Christinne Muschi/REUTERS)

Justin Trudeau heads to NATO summit amid deepening trade war with Trump

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Brussels to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit on July 11 set to discuss beefing up the alliance’s capabilities to respond to new threats amid a deepening trade war between Washington and its key allies and partners, including Canada.

U.S. President Donald Trump is also putting increasing pressure on Canada and other NATO allies to significantly increase their military spending to meet NATO’s target of spending two per cent of GDP on defence.

In a letter addressed to Trudeau last week U.S. President Donald Trump said there is “growing frustration” in the United States with NATO allies like Canada that have not increased defence spending as promised.

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

“The United States is increasingly unwilling to ignore this Alliance’s failure to meet shared security challenges,” Trump wrote.

Facing a ‘more assertive Russia’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday May 25, 2017. (Matt Dunham/AP Photo)

Leaders from 29 NATO members will be meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels for two-day talks set to approve beefing up personnel numbers at the alliance’s two new commands: the Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, and another one in Ulm, Germany to support military mobility in Europe.

Facing “a more assertive Russia,” NATO leaders are also set to approve a new initiative, dubbed the “Four Thirties,” to ensure that by 2020 the alliance is able mobilize 30 land battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels within 30 days or less.

“NATO leaders will explore how best to reinforce our collective security, including by responding to emerging and evolving threats as well as conducting training and capacity-building with partner nations and organizations,” said a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office. “Leaders will also address Russia’s aggressive and illegal actions, and Prime Minister Trudeau will reaffirm Canada’s support for Ukraine.”

Trade war among allies

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and G7 leaders Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss the joint communique following a breakfast meeting on the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. (Adam Scotti/Prime Minister’s Office/Handout via REUTERS)

Trump’s letter comes at a time when U.S. relations with Canada and several other key allies are already strained over Washington’s protectionist trade policies. In recent months, the Trump administration has placed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada and several European NATO allies and has threatened new tariffs targeting their auto industries.

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 “will not be pushed around” and would retaliate with tariffs on U.S. imports to the tune of approximately $16.6 billion.

Canada’s countermeasures come into force on July 1.

The summit in Brussels will be the first time Trudeau and Trump meet in person following the U.S. president’s Twitter outbursts lambasting the Canadian prime minister.

Trump expects ‘strong commitment from Canada’

A CF-18 Hornet from the Canadian Air Task Force Lithuania and a Portuguese F16 Fighting Falcon perform manoeuvres over Lithuania on September 15, 2014 for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Block 36 (Cpl. Gabrielle DesRochers/ CAF)

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.

Looking ahead to the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels, Trump said in his letter to Trudeau he appreciates Canada’s defence contributions around the world, including in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

But these contributions “do not excuse any of us from our commitments to ensure NATO has the resources it needs,” Trump added.

“As one of our most capable allies and a leader in worldwide security, Canada’s continued defence spending of less than two per cent undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also are not meeting their defence spending commitments,” the letter said.

“At the summit, we must ensure alliance credibility by living up to our agreed commitments. I expect to see a strong recommitment by Canada to meet the goals to which we have all agreed in the defence investment pledge.”

As one of the founding members of NATO, Canada remains committed to the alliance, Trudeau said in a statement.

“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,” Trudeau said. “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.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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