Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is opting a low-key approach to dealing with United States President Donald Trump – seeking to avoid clashes while indirectly signalling the two leaders’ difference to a domestic audience.
Insiders have acknowledged that the cautious strategy could anger progressives whose support helped bring Mr Trudeau to power in 2015, however they say that for now, he has no choice but to maintain a low key approach, as Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the US and could suffer if it were to be targeted by Trump’s administration.
While Mr Trudeau maintained a close friendship with former President Barack Obama, Canadian prime ministers have not always had close ties with US presidents. Insiders however have noted that few in Ottawa have experienced anything like Mr Trump. While Canada regards the US as its closest ally, Mr Trudeau has yet to visit Washington to meet with Mr Trump. According to people familiar with the matter, a visit tentatively scheduled at the beginning of this month was cancelled after a shooter killed six Muslims in a Quebec mosque. No new date has been set.
According to Michael Kergin, a former Canadian ambassador to Washington, Mr Trudeau’s caution has been wise, stating “he’s been playing it pretty well by restraining the temptation to be publicly critical of the president.” Kergin went on to say that Mr Trudeau was also right not to follow British Prime Minister Theresa May in rushing to Washington to push for closer ties only to watch President Trump make an unpopular move on immigration after she left.
Mr Trudeau however has taken indirect shots – when Mr Trump signed orders banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr Trudeau tweeted that Canada was open to those fleeing war. Furthermore, while his chief spokeswoman blasted US network Fox News late last month for a tweet falsely claiming that the Quebec gunman was of Moroccan origin, she said nothing publicly when Trump’s spokesman said that the attack on Muslims showed why it was important to suspend immigration from Muslim nations. This approach however has angered many in Canada, including the opposition New Democrats, who have called on the Prime Minister to denounce Mr Trump’s “racist” immigration policy. In turn, members of Mr Trudeau’s team have acknowledged that over time, the Liberals could lose support before a 2019 election if the prime minister is deemed not tot be standing up for Canadian values, such as inclusiveness.
This month, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released about 13 million pages of declassified documents online. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files, which had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland.
The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. Documents that have been released online include the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousands of pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
The more unusual records that have been released are documents from the Stargate Project, which dealt with psychic powers and extrasensory perception. Those include records of testing on celebrity psychic Uri Geller in 1973, when he was already a well-established performer. Memos detail how Mr Geller was able to partly replicate pictures drawn in another room with varying, but sometimes precise, accuracy, leading the researches to write that he “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”
While most of the information has technically been publically available since the mid-1990s, it has been very difficult to access ass the records were only available on four computers located in the back of a library at the National Archives in Maryland, between 09:00 and 16:30 each day.
US President Donald Trump has stated that he will soon begin “renegotiating” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts.
According to the newly sworn-in president, meetings have been scheduled with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The White House website states that if Canada and Mexico refuse to accept a renegotiation of the agreement that provides a “fair deal” for American workers, then the US will move to withdraw from it.
Speaking at a ceremony to swear in senior White House staff, President Trump also stated that he would tak with Mexican President Pena Nieto about immigration and and border security in a meeting that the White House says will take place on 31 January. No date has been given for a meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Trudeau.
Meanwhile on 21 January, President Pena Nieto’s office disclosed that the Mexican leader had called Mr Trump to congratulate him. In a statement, the Mexican president “reiterated the strategic priority of bilateral ties…and expressed his interest in maintaining an open dialogue.” President Trump meanwhile has stated that “Mexico has been terrific. The president has been really very amazing.” In regards to the NAFTA renegotiations, President Trump stated, “I think we are going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody.”
President Pena Nieto has faced criticism in Mexico for lacking a clear plan of action to deal with President Trump’s threats, which include building a massive border wall at Mexico’s expense and imposing a tax on Mexican imports. Protests were held on 20 January outside a Ford showroom in Mexico City after the car company cancelled a US $1.6 billion plant that it had planned on building in Mexico.
What is the NAFTA Agreement?
The North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect between the US, Canada and Mexico in 1994, when Bill Clinton was president. The agreement effectively created one of the world’s largest free trade zones by reducing or eliminating tariffs on most products. The pact was meant to benefit small businesses by lowering costs and reducing bureaucracy in a bid to facilitate buying and selling abroad. However whether it has ultimately helped or harmed Americans has been hotly debated. In 2015, the Congressional Research Service, which provides independent analysis, stated that “in reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters,” adding that “the net overall effect of NAFTA on the US economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of US GDP.”
According to a lead mediator from the Catholic Church, Congolese President Joseph Kabila will step down after elections, which will be held before the end of 2017, under a deal that was struck by political parties on 30 December 2016. Speaking to reporters, Marcel Utembi, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the DRC, disclosed that under the deal, President Kabila will be unable to change the constitution to extend his mandate and run for a third term in office. Hopes are now high that the landmark power-sharing deal between DRC’s political opponents will bring an end to a months-long crisis. It also aims to head of further unrest over the fate of President Joseph Kabila, whose second and final mandate ended on 20 December with no sign of him stepping down and no election in sight.
Below is a timeline of the crisis that has affected the country
- 17 January 2015 – Parliament adopts a bill that would enable President Kabila, who has been in power for fourteen years, to extend his term beyond 2016. The president’s opponents believe that he wants to prolong his mandate by making the presidential and parliamentary elections contingent on a new electoral roll, as a census that was set to begin in 2015 has yet to take place.
- Between 19 – 22 January 2015 – Clashes between police and anti-Kabila demonstrators erupt in the capital Kinshasa and several other towns across the country. The clashes degenerate into riots and looting, with police using life fire and tear gas in a bid to disperse the crowds. Dozens are killed. Speaking from Belgium, opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi calls on the Congolese people to force a “dying regime” from power.
- 25 January 2015 – Parliament votes in favor of a new election law, which still leaves doubts over the timetable for new polls.
- December 2015 – The United Nations expresses concern over a government crackdown on opponents, pointing to “arbitrary arrests and detentions, in particular political opponents, civil society activists or demonstrators.”
- 4 May 2016 – Opposition leader Moise Katumbi declares that he will stand in the presidential election. He is seen as the leading challenger to Kabila. The wealthy businessman is a former Kabila ally who joined the opposition in September 2015 after stepping down as governor of mineral-rich Katanga province.
- 11 May 2016 – The Constitutional Court states that Kabia can remain in office when his mandate expires, even without being re-elected.
- May 2016 – Katumbi leave for South Africa, ostensibly for medical treatment, after appearing in court twice over the alleged use of foreign mercenaries.
- 10 June 2016 – During a Brussels meeting, which was organized by Tshisekedi, the mainstream opposition decides to set up a new coalition.
- June 2016 – Katumbi is sentenced to three years in prison over a separate real estate dispute in a move that effectively makes him ineligible to stand in the election.
- July 2016 – Tshisekedi returns to Kinshasa after two years in Belgium. Speaking before tens of thousands of supporters, he demands that the election be held by the year’s end and that Kabila departs.
- September 2016 – The opposition coalition calls for demonstrators to signal notice to Kabila, three months before his term is due to expire.
- 19 – 20 September 2016 – Violence erupts in Kinshasa between security forces and youths, leaving several dozen people dead. The protests were called by Tshisekedi’s opposition coalition to coincide with the last three months of Kabila’s term in office.
- 17 October 2016 – The parliamentary majority and an opposition fringe minority sign an accord, which effectively pushes the presidential election back to April 2018 and keeps Kabila in place until his predecessor takes over. The mainstream opposition however continues to demand that Kabila step down at the end of his mandate, in December 2016.
- 8 December 2016 – The DRC’s episcopal conference CENCO launches talks which are aimed at a deal on setting up a transition authority until a presidential election can be held. It sets a 16 December deadline, which comes and goes.
- 12 December 2016 – The United States and the European Union (EU) impose sanctions on top Congolese officials over bloodshed in the country.
- 17 December 2016 – Catholic Church negotiators announce that talks would resume only a day after Kabila’s term ends.
- 20 December 2016 – According to the UN, deadly clashes erupt in Kinshasa and other cities on the last day of Kabila’s mandate, leaving at least forty people dead.
- Late December 2016 – The CENCO-mediated talks resume
- 31 December 2016 – The two sides agree that Kabila will remain in power until elections are held at the “end of 2017.” During this 12-month period, a so-called National Transition Council, will be set up, headed by opposition leader Tshisekedi, and a prime minister will be named from opposition ranks.
According to a US military official, at least 50,000 militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group have been killed since the US-led coalition was launched in Syria and Iraq two years ago.
The senior official has described the figure as a “conservative estimate,” adding that it showed that air power and a small number of US figures supporting local forces were having an impact. He further disclosed that the ongoing US campaign was beginning to damage IS. The US however has repeatedly warned that IS can replace fighters quite quickly.
While the US has often been reluctant to provide figures on enemy causalities, in August, Lt Gen Sean MacFarland was quoted by the AP news agency as stating that about 45,000 enemy combatants had been killed. Meanwhile in February, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest disclosed that IS had about 25,000 fighters operating in Syria and Iraq, citing a US intelligence estimate.
The senior US military official further disclosed that coalition airstrikes could be intensified in places such as Mosul, which Iraqi troops are now battling in order to recapture. He notes however that this would have to be offset against the risk of civilian casualties.