By JENNIFER McDERMOTT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with U.S. governors at a summer summit in Rhode Island.
Trudeau said in a statement that he plans to deliver the keynote address at the National Governors Association meeting that begins July 13 in Providence. Foreign dignitaries have attended the association’s meetings in recent years, though not heads of government.
Trudeau said he wants to strengthen the “vital relationship” between Canada and the United States. No other international relationship is more important to Canadian prosperity, he said.
“I will continue to work with all orders of the U.S. government to create good, middle class jobs on both sides of the border, and to find solutions to the challenges we face together,” Trudeau said in the statement.
He plans to talk about trade, cross-border security and the potential for common solutions on climate change.
Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were invited, but neither has said if he’ll go.
Trudeau and his ministers have been courting U.S. governors in an effort to stress the importance of the Canadian economy to jobs in their states. Canadian ministers and government officials have made repeated trips to the U.S.
Canadian officials have also stressed that they’ll work with U.S. states and cities on climate change after Trump withdrew the nation from the global Paris climate accord. Trudeau has said he’s “deeply disappointed” with the Republican president’s decision.
Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is hosting the three-day summit, plans to ask governors in attendance to support the climate pact. She said she’d like to see governors collectively say that they’re committing their states to the standards in the Paris accord and she thinks they can work directly with leaders like Trudeau to address climate change.
“When there’s a vacuum of leadership, as there is now in the White House and in the United States Congress, yes, it puts more of an obligation on governors to do the work, absolutely,” she said Friday.
More than 30 governors have registered to attend, which would be a high turnout for the meeting.
Trudeau has also courted close relations with Trump and his staff, despite the vastly different outlooks they have on free trade and the world. More than 75 percent of Canada’s exports and 98 percent of its oil exports go to the U.S.
“We have developed a constructive relationship with the administration and other levels of government,” Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad said. “Given the broad and long-lasting and tremendously important relationship between our two countries, the more engagement we do, the better it is for the trading relationship to continue to grow and create jobs on both sides of the border.”
A renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is a major concern for Canada.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toro