Wed, Mar 09, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Canada’s Trudeau set for first official visit to Washington


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans panache and progressivism on his first official visit to Washington, where he and his wife are to be guests of honor at a White House state dinner tomorrow.

“There’s a buzz in Washington,” said Matt Browne, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank in the US capital. “People are really very excited to be around him, speaking with him and learning more about his vision.”

Trudeau is to be the first Canadian leader to be feted in Washington in almost two decades.

Over the coming days there will be cocktail parties, toasts with champagne, music and celebrities, a wreath-laying at Arlington Cemetery, a question-and-answer session with students, speeches and more.

As well, the trip presents an opportunity to reset the Canada-US relationship strained under previous administrations.

“It will be refreshing to have some inspirational and issues-based politics rather than bickering,” said Browne, contrasting Trudeau’s push for diversity, inclusiveness and a progressive economic agenda with the US presidential debates in which Donald Trump refuted disparaging accusations about his “small hands” and genitals.

“[Railing] against intolerance and politics of fear and division, and ideas such as the need for the state to invest in infrastructure and job creation, it’s all part of a new progressive agenda that Trudeau is leading, and there’s a lot of interest in his vision,” Browne said.

However, do not expect the Canadian prime minister to hog the spotlight.

“There’s a keen interest in Sophie too,” Browne added, referring to Trudeau’s wife, the television host Sophie Gregoire.

Trudeau, 44, and Gregoire, 40, were featured on the cover of Vogue magazine’s in December last year, while the New York Times and the Washington Post have published flattering portraits of the prime minister.

“Clearly the Trudeaus are a glamor couple, perhaps like the Kennedys, and that adds to the mystique and the buzz around town,” Browne said.

The Trudeaus are to be officially welcomed by US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at a ceremony on the White House South Lawn tomorrow morning, followed by a luncheon hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry and finally the big event — a state dinner that evening (followed by an after-party at a swank hotel).

Between courses, Trudeau and Obama are expected to firm up new bilateral agreements on trade and the environment, which are to be announced during the visit.

In an exclusive interview with US magazine 60 Minutes, Trudeau said: “Having a little more of an awareness of what’s going on in the rest of the world, I think is, is what many Canadians would hope for Americans. I think we sometimes like to think that, you know, Americans will pay attention to us from time to time, too.”

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