WASHINGTON – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he plans to skip a meeting with President Donald Trump and Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to highlight a new trade deal signed by all three countries at the White House later this week.
Trump is scheduled to welcome López Obrador at the White House on Wednesday, a week after the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, took effect. Trudeau's office confirmed that the prime minister would not attend the meeting to mark the start of the new trade pact but wished the U.S. and Mexico well.
"While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the Prime Minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament," Alex Wellstead, Trudeau's press secretary, said in a statement. "We continue to work with our NAFTA partners to ensure this new agreement becomes a success for all three countries.”
Trudeau signaled he would decline an invitation to the White House on Friday at a press conference, citing concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and threats of new aluminum and steel tariffs from the U.S.
"We’re obviously concerned about the proposed issue of tariffs on aluminum and steel that the Americans have floated recently. We’re also concerned about the health situation and the coronavirus reality that is still hitting all three of our countries,” Trudeau told reporters.
The U.S. has seen more than 2.8 million confirmed cases and more than 129,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data. More than 49,000 new cases were reported Monday.
The U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada remain closed to nonessential travel until July 21 and anyone who does cross the border is required to quarantine for 14 days after visiting the United States. Trudeau, who was already forced to quarantine earlier this year after his wife tested positive for COVID-19, would have been required to again do so upon his return home.
López Obrador's trip to Washington will be his first foreign visit since taking office in 2018 and he will be only the second head of state to visit Trump since the coronavirus pandemic unfolded.
The revised trade deal, one of Trump's signature goals, is the product of months of negotiations and replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which essentially eliminated tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canada's Trudeau skips Trump meeting amid tariff threat, pandemic