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15th-Feb-2017

Trump, Trudeau fail to end differences on refugees, trade

By AFP, Washington

US President Donald Trump and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to paper over differences on the treatment of refugees during a joint public appearance Monday, but appeared to tone down harsh trade rhetoric.
The two leaders avoided directly criticizing each other after a meeting in the White House, but made it clear they did not see eye-to-eye on Trump's efforts to ban refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations.
Trump defended his controversial immigration decree as "common sense" and demurred when asked if Canada's open door policies posed a threat for the United States.
"You can never be totally confident," Trump said when asked about America's northern border, before vaunting his Department of Homeland Security's migrant round-ups.
Recent days have seen the arrest of hundreds of undocumented migrants across the United States.
"We're actually taking people that are criminals-very, very hardened criminals in some cases, with a tremendous track record of abuse and problems, and we are getting them out," Trump said.
Civil rights group say migrants with no criminal record are also being caught in the dragnet.
Trudeau said that "Canada has always understood that keeping Canadians safe is one of the fundamental responsibilities of any government."
"At the same time, we continue to pursue our policies of openness towards refugees without compromising security."
The gulf between the two neighbors was always going to be difficult span: Trump has painted Syrian refugees as terrorists-in-waiting, while Trudeau has traveled to Toronto's Pearson International airport to greet them.
After striking up a much-flaunted "bromance" with president Barack Obama, Canada's youthful liberal leader was in Washington to woo a septuagenarian Republican, with whom he shares little in common.
Trudeau is the third foreign leader received by the Republican mogul since he took office on January 20, following meetings with Britain's Theresa May and Japan's Shinzo Abe.
Trudeau visit got off to an awkward start, when he arrived at the White House early and his limousine was forced to wait on the driveway for around five minutes before Trump came out.
The two men then greeted each other with a handshake and headed into the Oval Office.
While there was little common ground on migration, Trudeau and Trump did appear to narrow the gap on trade.
Trump had vowed to put "America first" and rip up the North America Free Trade Agreement, but significantly toned down that rhetoric after meeting Trudeau.
Trump called for trade to be "reciprocal," but said he wanted to only "tweak" rather than gut the terms of trade.