Trudeau skips meeting Belgian royalty, business delegation
canadasvoice:OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is raising diplomatic eyebrows for not meeting with Belgian royalty and business leaders during their week-long visit to Canada.
Trudeau has no plans to meet with the Belgian royal couple, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, or their delegation of 150 business leaders, academics and political leaders, who arrived Sunday.
While senior members of the Quebec and Ontario governments and business leaders are scheduled to meet with the group, sources tell the Star the delegation feels snubbed by the federal Liberals.
“With CETA, we’re even closer to Europe right now. We should be aligning ourselves on the political front,” said one source, refering to the free trade deal between the European Union and Canada.
The source, who spoke on background due to diplomatic sensitivities, said the delegation was “obviously” disappointed that Trudeau didn’t make time to meet.
The prime minister this week is touring steel and aluminum facilities in Quebec and Ontario communities to voice opposition to potential American tariffs on those industries.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said last week Canada would be exempt from those tariffs, at least for now.
An official with the Prime Minister’s Office noted three cabinet ministers will receive the delegation during their time in Canada, including International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Treasury Board President Scott Brison and Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan.
Only Champagne, however, has a foreign affairs portfolio.
The Belgian delegation includes seven ministers, including Vice Prime Minister and foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders, as well as representatives from the country’s three regions.
The visit by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde to Canada is the first state visit by Belgian royals since the 1970s. Last month, Raoul Delcorde, Belgium’s ambassador to Canada, posted a photo on Twitter of Belgian King Baudouin meeting with former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1977.
From the standpoint of diplomatic protocol, Governor General Julie Payette is the official host of the Belgian royal couple.
But sources tell the Star it was expected that Trudeau would make time for the delegation, given the strong trade ties between the two countries.
Bilateral trade between Canada and Belgium totaled almost $6.5 billion last year, according to Global Affairs Canada.
That relationship is expected to grow with the ratification of the Canada-E.U. free trade deal.
While in Canada, the Belgian delegation will hold meetings at the MaRS building in Toronto, hold a Canadian-Belgian CEO roundtable at Power Corporation’s headquarters, and meet with pension fund giant Caisse de depot to talk science cooperation.
Trudeau’s approach with the Belgians contrasts with his effusive welcome of Jordan’s King Abdullah last year. Trudeau met with him and held a joint news conference to publicly highlight Canada’s close ties with the Middle East country and personally praise Abdullah as a “friend.”
“It’s been an honour and a pleasure to host His Majesty and his delegation in Ottawa, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Jordan in the years ahead,” Trudeau told reporters last August.
Trudeau used that visit to announce $45 million to support economic development, initiatives to gender equality and aid for refugees, using a news release to underscore the “strong partnership” between the two countries. So far, there’s no been no official statement from Trudeau about the Belgian visit.
When King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited Ottawa in 2015, they were met by then prime minister Stephen Harper and wife Laureen on Parliament Hill.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian government was “delighted” to welcome the Belgian royal family.
“Canada and Belgium have excellent bilateral relations based on bonds of friendship and trust, as well as the shared values of liberty, democracy, solidarity and diversity,” wrote Adam Austen in an email to the Star.
“This visit is an important opportunity to build upon our strong relations and the bonds that tie our countries together.”…More
Source – Toronto Star