Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo And Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland At a Press Availability
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: (Via interpreter) I’d like to thank everyone for being with us today. First, I’d like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. To my colleague, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, thank you for being here in Ottawa today. Thank you for being with us today. Secretary Pompeo, thank you for coming to Ottawa and for the fruitful discussions we’ve had today.
(In English) Before our meetings here at the beautiful National Arts Center, Secretary Pompeo and I visited the National War Memorial, the cenotaph symbolizing the sacrifice of all Canadian armed forces personnel who have served Canada in time of war. It was a reminder for me that so often when Canadian men and women serve, they do so alongside our American friends and allies. Whether in the First and Second World Wars, in Korea, in the first Gulf War, in the Balkans, or in Afghanistan, Canadians have been proud to stand with you.
Today, Canada and the United States are indispensable allies in the defense of North American soil and, through NORAD, of North American airspace. And, of course, we’re allies in the world. In NATO, we’re working together to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, with Canada leading a robust multinational battle group in Latvia and the U.S. doing the same in Poland. NATO is the cornerstone of the North Atlantic security – of North Atlantic security and defense, particularly now as we wrestle with old and new threats to North American and global security, including violent extremism, cyber attacks, and efforts by malign actors to undermine our democracies.
Today, alongside our American allies, Canadian armed forces ships and maritime patrol aircraft are deployed under Operation Neon to ensure sanctions are imposed against North Korea, and the deputy commander of the United Nations force in Korea is a Canadian.
(Via interpreter) As friends and allies, Canada and the United States work together in many ways to keep our border, our people, and our countries safe. We work together to support peace and security, sustainable development, and economic growth.
(In English) Geography and history have given us a special and enduring trading relationship that has been a significant contributor to jobs and prosperity in both of our countries – $2.6 billion worth of goods and services move back and forth between our countries every single day – and as we both move forward in ratifying the new NAFTA, Canadians and Americans will continue to benefit from our unique and profitable economic relationship. The lifting of 232 tariffs in both directions earlier this year has had a further positive effect on trade between Canada and the United States.
(Via interpreter) Since the end of the Second World War, Canada and the United States have built a system that championed freedom and democracy and prevented regional conflicts from turning into total war. Today, Secretary Pompeo and I had the opportunity to discuss a number of critically important issues. Those include this weekend’s meeting of G7 leaders in France, the crisis in Venezuela, Hong Kong, support for Ukraine in the face of ongoing Russian aggression, the situation in Kashmir, the Arctic, Japan and South Korea, the way towards ratifying the new NAFTA.
(In English) I want to take this opportunity to thank you personally, Mike, for the hard work you did which contributed to a good outcome on NAFTA and 232. It made a big difference. And I also want to thank you for your continued support for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. And I want to take this moment of giving thanks to our American friends to recognize Ambassador Kelly Craft. She’s been with us today, and today is her last day in Canada, so thank you for giving us such a great ambassador and thank you very much, Kelly, for your hard work here. We’ve really appreciated it.
The bottom line is that Canada and the United States have enjoyed a strong partnership for all of our shared history, and we are committed to strengthening this partnership in the future. We are neighbors, we are friends, and we’re an example to the world of what a strong bilateral relationship should be.
Now, Mike and I also have one special connection. At ASEAN in Bangkok last month, he publicly celebrated the victory of my hometown basketball team. It turns out that as a former Wichita congressman, he is a fan of Fred VanVleet. And like all Torontonians, I am a fan of every single Raptor. So thank you very much, Mike, for visiting us today. Merci.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Chrystia, thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s great to be in Canada – my first official visit as Secretary of State. I had important and good meetings both with Chrystia today as well as with Prime Minister Trudeau. I thank them profusely for their solidarity with the United States on a wide range of issues. Chrystia mentioned many of them, but North Korea and Venezuela in particular, Canada has been a fantastic partner. And we discussed ways that the two nations could invest in our shared future together very broadly.
More particularly, we discussed the urgency of advancing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement through our legislatures. Politics cannot – indeed, must not – get in the way of this monumental achievement for either of our nations. Every day 400,000 people, in addition to the $2 billion-plus you described, transit our shared border, and Canada is the primary market for more than 30 American states. The USMCA will ensure that this trade continues and strengthens even further, creating opportunities on both sides of our border and in Mexico as well. And if we’ve gotten the ball this far, we can get over the line together too. We have much to gain when we succeed and a great deal to lose should we fail.
Our security partnership is just as strong as our economic partnership. Last year we celebrated the 60th anniversary of NORAD. Canada has also been an unwavering supporter of our pressure campaign and our subsequent diplomacy with North Korea. And with respect to Venezuela, which I mentioned briefly earlier, both of our nations have helped galvanize the support of over 53 other countries for the Venezuelan people to take back their country.
As I discussed with Prime Minister Trudeau as well as with Foreign Minister Freeland, the United States stands with Canada in the face of China’s arbitrary and unacceptable detention of Canadian citizens. We’re grateful too that Canada followed the rule of law and obtained – and detained a Huawei executive.
Even as we stand should to shoulder on these many areas of common ground, we can do more, and I know that we will. In Eastern Europe we must continue to stand with our NATO allies in the face of ongoing Russian aggression. It’s why we also discussed today the importance of Canada meetings its commitment, its Wales Pledge of 2 percent of GDP on national defense. It can set a powerful example for all of our European partners in our collective defense.
I also stressed the importance of Canadian efforts in defense of the Arctic. Your expansive Arctic territory is the backdoor to the continent, and the Arctic’s strategic importance, including its vast resources and shipping lanes, are of increasing interest to the entire world, especially to China and to Russia. The Trump administration is eager to work with Canada to increase our shared defense in the region.
In closing, when it comes to the economic and security relationship between the United States and Canada, the only thing outweighing our accomplishments is our potential. We can seize this potential in our very time, and today’s meetings were a positive step towards doing so.
Thank you, Chrystia.
QUESTION: To Secretary Pompeo, I understand you’re supporting our government in the case of the two detained Canadians in China. I’m wondering what specifically you’ve committed to.
And to Minister Freeland, the steelworkers are denouncing the decision to lift tariffs on the illegally dumped steel from China in British Columbia and the LNG projects. I’m wondering if you can talk about why that decision was made in light of the two Canadians detained in China.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’ll try to take the first one. While I can’t talk about everything that we’ve done, we started with immediately being very clear about the inappropriate nature of this unlawful detention of these two Canadian citizens. We spoke about it early and we speak about it a great deal. President Trump mentioned it directly in his meeting with President Xi Jinping. I was there when he did it. He made unambiguous America’s concern about this inappropriate behavior. And then we’ve done other – we’ve engaged in other diplomatic activity, trying to help make the case for the release of these two, and we’ll continue to do that until such time as they’re home and returned to their families.
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: And let me just say thank you for that, Mike, and as we said, we did discuss the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor today, and we have discussed them many, many times.
When it comes to steel, let me just start by saying our government is tremendously supportive of our steel and aluminum sectors and our steel and aluminum workers. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, one of the successes that Canada and the United States have enjoyed in our relationship earlier this year is coming to a point where we were able to lift the 232 tariffs in both directions, and that has added to the prosperity of both of our countries, both of whose economies are growing strongly, and that has been really good news for Canadian steelworkers and that is a really good thing.
When it comes to the LNG project, this is one of the biggest investments in Canadian history. It is going to create a great number of new jobs in Canada, and it’s an investment that Canadians can be proud of because it will contribute to the fight against climate change by making available Canadian LNG to replace coal in a lot of countries. So it’s a very important project. It’s something we are glad to be supporting and facilitating. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you repeat in French?
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: Je m’excuse.
(Via interpreter) I’d like to thank you, to first thank Secretary Pompeo, for the support provided to Canada and for the work that he’s personally doing, the work that the United States is doing for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. I would like to stress at the same time that these are two very brave men. I am extremely proud of them, and I am very proud of their families.
As far as steel is concerned, our government continues to strongly support the Canadian steel industry and the workers of that industry. As I mentioned early, one of the achievements of the ties between the U.S. and Canada this year is the fact that we have managed to lift the tariffs between the two countries, the tariffs against Canadian steel. This is an excellent accomplishment for the Canadian economy but also for the U.S. economy and for the workers of the sector.
As far as LNG is concerned, it’s an excellent project for Canada. It’s a good project for Canadian workers, and it’s a good project for the global environment as a whole. Thank you.
MS ORTAGUS: Thanks. From the American side, we’re going to have Lara Jakes from The New York Times.
QUESTION: Thanks very much. Mr. Pompeo, I’d like to ask you about Venezuela to start off with, please. Do the recent talks between the Trump administration and members of Mr. Maduro’s regime signal any kind of shift in U.S. policy towards Venezuela? And especially given the lack of movement in the government there in the last eight months, would the United States recognize as legitimate an election with Mr. Maduro on the ballot?
And Ms. Freeland, if you’d like to respond to any of that about Venezuela, I’d be happy, especially if you can comment on whether your government is thinking still about freezing all Venezuelan assets in Canada, as the United States has done.
And Ms. Freeland, you talked a little bit about the Canadian citizens who are detained in China. I’m wondering if you’ve asked the United States to drop its extradition demand of Ms. Meng to help secure their release. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the first question you asked, the predicate is wrong, but the answer to the substantive question is no, there’s been no change in U.S. policy. We have consistently said that there cannot be free and fair elections so long as Maduro is on the scene, and we continue to work towards achieving that end on behalf of the Venezuelan people.
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: And just on Venezuela, if I could add, as Mike and I both said, it’s an issue that we discussed today, that we have discussed in the past. Canada recognizes Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, and it is clear to us that Maduro and his regime are illegitimate.
I would urge people to take a look at Michelle Bachelet’s excellent report on the abuses being committed by the Maduro regime against the people of Venezuela, and it’s really important to support their absolutely legitimate desire for democracy and human rights in their own country.
Canada is very much engaged in our work as a member of the Lima Group in supporting Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela. We have very strong sanctions in place against the Maduro regime, and we also believe that it is important to explore all possible paths to a resolution of the situation.
With that in mind, I’ll be traveling next week to Cuba for a bilateral meeting with the Cuban foreign minister. Canada has a longstanding and good relationship with Cuba. We work with Cuba on many levels, and one of the issues that we have been discussing with Cuba is Venezuela.
QUESTION: And the freezing of assets?
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: As I said, we have a strong set of sanctions in place. We always – we are constantly considering ways that our sanction regime should be updated, and actually, that’s an area where we’ve worked very closely with the United States in using Magnitsky sanctions all over the world, very much including Venezuela.
QUESTION: And could you answer the question about that extradition request?
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: Oh, I’m sorry.
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: So when it comes to the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, as I said, we thank the U.S. for its support. And I think it’s worth pointing out, maybe especially to our American visitors, that a great number of Canada’s allies around the world have spoken out against these arbitrary detentions, and we thank all of those allies as well. Just last week, Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, was in Canada on a bilateral visit, and he reiterated Germany’s support and also was very clear publicly that Germany does raise this issue in its meetings with China.
When it comes to the extradition request from the United States of Ms. Meng, Canada and the United States have an extradition treaty, which has been in place for a long time – not quite longer than I have been alive, but pretty close. Our border is the longest un-militarized border in the world. And as Mike and I have both emphasized, there is – we just do a lot of business. A lot of stuff happens across that border, and we need to have an extradition treaty in place for both of our countries to function well and for that border to work.
When it comes to Canada applying our extradition treaty with the United States, it’s not a political decision. The application of the extradition treaty is done under delegated authority by Canadian public servants, and that is as it ought to be. Extradition is a criminal justice matter; it is not a political matter.
And the case of Ms. Meng is currently before the Canadian courts, as it ought to be. As for the U.S. case against Ms. Meng, I think that’s a matter for the U.S. and the U.S. criminal justice authorities.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’d just add there, your question took the Chinese line. Your question connected these two things. These are deeply different. The arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens in China is fundamentally different as a human rights matter, as a rule of law matter. These are fundamentally different matters than the Canadian decision to use their due process and the rule of law to behave in a way that’s deeply consistent with the way decent nations work. And so when you ask this question, you connect them up. That’s what China wants to talk about. They want to talk about these two as if they are equivalent, as if they’re morally similar, which they fundamentally are not.
QUESTION: Bonjour, Madam Freeland.
(Via interpreter) Ms. Freeland, what do you tell the Chinese Government when they target you, when they name you on state television, telling you to stop meddling with internal affairs in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China? And don’t you fear that perhaps this denunciation of yours could complicate even further the life of these two detainees in Beijing?
Mr. Pompeo, I’m not sure if I got your point of Meng Wanezhou quite well. I just wanted to know if you see her as a bargaining chip in the U.S.-China conflict, trade conflict.
SECRETARY POMPEO: No. Go ahead.
MODERATOR: Madam Freeland —
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: (Via interpreter) Regarding relations between Canada and China, the prime minister, in his excellent speech yesterday, clearly explained our government’s position. I’ll be happy to reiterate and underscore this position.
Canada and China have longstanding relations. Next year, in fact, we’ll be celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties between Canada and China. It’s a relationship that covers many fields – education, the economy, the environment, on which we work very closely, and the World Trade Organization. I believe I’ve already explained our position considering Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as Ms. Meng’s position.
Regarding Hong Kong, Canada takes a keen interest in Hong Kong. After all, 300,000 Canadians reside in Hong Kong. Therefore, it is only natural and important for Canada to keep a close eye on the developments in Hong Kong. Canada also believes that the idea of one country, one system is important for Hong Kong and for China. But so is the guarantee of peaceful assembly for the people of Hong Kong. This is what Canada has said and this is what our prime minister said yesterday.
I’d also like to underscore and reiterate that what Canada said on Saturday was a joint statement with the European Union and with Federica Mogherini. All this to explain that Canada is working very closely with our partners and allies. It is crucial for Canada in the world to always defend our values and our national interests, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), Secretary Pompeo?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No. I mean, you asked if it’s a bargaining – you asked if it was a bargaining chip. It is a legal process by the United States Department of Justice designed to bring someone who we believe we have sufficient information to bring back to the United States under the agreements between the United States and Canada – very straightforward.
MODERATOR: Thanks. Washington Post, John Hudson.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks. Mr, Secretary, there are reports that the U.S. has decided not to cut billions of dollars of foreign aid in a process known as rescission. Is that the right decision when it comes to balancing our budgets versus our interests, in your view?
You also mentioned that you made some progress with your Canadian counterparts on the North Korea issue. I wanted to ask about South Korea’s decision to stop an agreement to share military intelligence with Japan. Is the U.S. making efforts to bring the two allies together?
And Minister Freeland, President Trump has expressed support for Russia to rejoin the G7 – should be the G8. Do you support that idea?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So John, thanks for the question. With respect to the rescission, the President’s still contemplating, although we were working on it even this morning. I’ve been engaged in meetings. There may be an outcome, a decision process. What I have consistently said with respect to every penny the State Department spends, including our foreign assistance budget, is we’ve got to get it right. We got to make sure we are using it in ways that are effective, that American interests are represented in the way we spend that money. That certainly includes our foreign assistance program, but every employee – every single dollar we take away from the taxpayers I want to make sure we’re deploying properly. And this discussion that we’re having on rescission certainly is part of that bigger discussion.
On your second question, I actually spoke with my South Korean counterpart this morning. We’re disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement. We’re urging each of the two countries to continue to engage, to continue to have dialogue. She was with the Japanese foreign minister yesterday, I believe, our time. They were working to put this back together.
There is no doubt that the shared interests of Japan and South Korea are important, and they’re important to the United States of America, and we hope each of those two countries can begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place. I have experienced it from my time here as the Secretary of State. It’s absolutely valuable not only to the work you mentioned in the context of North Korea, but important in the work we do all around the world. They are both great partners and friends of the United States, and we are hopeful they can make progress together.
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: So – and we are hopeful too.
On Russia and the G7, that is an issue that Canada has a very clear position on and that I personally have a very clear position on. Early in my career as a journalist, I lived and worked in Moscow – in Moscow at a time when Russia was building a democracy and a market economy. And it was entirely appropriate as part of that process to admit Russia to the G7. That was the G7 community of nations extending a hand to a democratizing, reforming Russia and saying the doors are open to you to join this important, I would say essential, group of likeminded nations.
And then Russia grossly violated international law by invading and annexing Crimea and added to that with the continued war in the Donbas. This was an incredibly serious step. It is the first annexation of territory of a European country by another European country since the Second World War. And when you think about the carnage of the Second World War – and we referred today to the work our countries did after the Second World War to build a rules-based international order to make sure that couldn’t happen again. Russia’s violation of international law in annex – in invading Crimea and annexing it, in continuing to support war in the Donbas, is something we cannot allow to stand, and that is why Russia was expelled from the G7, because of that action. So I think all of us would be delighted to welcome a Russia which sought again to be a member in good standing of our like-minded group of countries, a group of countries committed to the rule of law, a group of countries committed to democracy. And the way for Russia to show that it wants to do that is to leave Crimea and to end the war in the Donbas. It’s very simple.
QUESTION: En Francais?
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: (Via interpreter) Canada has taken a very clear position concerning Russia and the G7. It’s also my personal position. When I was much younger, I was – I worked as a journalist in Russia. I personally saw very serious efforts in Russia to build a democracy and to build a market economy. Thanks to these efforts, our group of G7 countries opened the door to Russia and decided to invite this reformed Russia to be part of our group of nations. I think it was the right thing to do at the time. However, since then, Russia has taken actions that are contrary to all the rules and values of the G7 by illegally invading and annexing Crimea and by supporting war in Donbas. It’s a serious crime against – in the international rules-based order. I believe everyone will be more than happy to invite Russia to become once again a full member of the G7 after G7 leaves Crimea and after it leaves the Donbas. It’s that simple.
(In English) Okay. I think that’s it. Thank you very much, everyone.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all.
FOREIGN MINISTER FREELAND: And thank you very much, American friends, for visiting.