Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland sang the praises of Donald Trump's new top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, after wrapping up a series of meetings in Washington Wednesday focused on the interdependence of the Canadian and American economies.
With much uncertainty hanging over Trump's foreign policies and their potential impact on the Canadian economy and Canada-U.S. trade, Freeland said that Tillerson, who until a few weeks ago was chief executive of oil giant Exxon, would be good for Canada.
Freeland and Tillerson discussed an array of issues in a private meeting, including what her department described as "the importance of the economic relationship between both countries, which supports millions of middle class jobs on both sides of the border."
"I just want to underscore that Secretary Tillerson is someone who knows Canada very well and in particular has a very strong understanding of the mutual benefits of the Canada-U.S. relationship, and I think will be a good partner for us."
Freeland made the comments during a cordial 35-minute phone call with reporters. The minister was not asked whether she raised climate change or other environmental issues with Tillerson. President Trump has expressed doubts about scientific evidence showing how humans are contributing to climate change, and his administration is expected to retreat from plans introduced by the former Obama administration to aggressively tackle the problem and to participate in the international Paris agreement.
National Observer subsequently attempted to ask the questions about whether she had pressed Tillerson on climate change, but there was no immediate response from her office.
Earlier, Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that Freeland and Tillerson had also discussed security, continued support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the global fight against Daesh, the future of Syria, the situation in the Eastern Ukraine, among other international issues. Freeland's discussion with Tillerson followed a series of private discussions with other U.S. leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Sen. John McCain, a former U.S. Republican presidential candidate in 2008.
"Everyone was familiar with Canada and familiar with our economic relationship, and very familiar with the key facts that it is a very balanced trading relationship; that it is mutually beneficial; that Canada and the United States are countries with comparable standards of living, comparable labour standards, comparable environmental standards and that has created a very deep and balanced trading relationship," Freeland told reporters during the conference call.
"We also spoke about how integrated our economies are and how integrated our supply chains were. So that's the discussion I had with everyone and those were ... aspects of our economic relationship that were well understood."