Pence, Trudeau to discuss Huawei and China trade issues in Ottawa: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will discuss their countries’ joint dispute with China over Huawei during a meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, a senior U.S. administration official said.

FILE PHOTO: People hold signs calling for China to release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig during a court appearance by Huawei's Financial Chief Meng Wanzhou, outside of British Columbia Supreme Court building in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Pence, known for taking a hard line against China, will travel to the Canadian capital to discuss trade issues, including Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world’s largest telecoms network gear maker, which Washington has moved to isolate.

“Canada has been a close ally in the way that they’ve approached their relationship with China - and there could be some conversation about Huawei,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Washington has accused Huawei of being tied to China’s government, and has effectively banned U.S. firms from doing business with the company for national security reasons.

The dispute spilled into Canada last year, and Ottawa has expressed frustration at what it sees as a lackluster U.S. response to harsh Chinese measures.

In December, Canada arrested Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wangzhou on a U.S. warrant. She faces extradition to the United States on charges she conspired to defraud global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran. She and the company have denied the charges.

Shortly after her arrest, Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were detained in China, and were formally arrested for espionage earlier this month. Canada has called the Canadians’ detentions arbitrary.

China has also cut off imports of key Canadian commodities, hurting farmers.

“Expect some very tangible outcomes from their discussion with regard to China that we’ll share with you tomorrow,” a second U.S. official told reporters. The officials declined to say whether Pence would offer Canada assistance on the detentions and the trade stoppages.

Pence also plans to make a separate address in the coming days about the “current state of affairs” in China, the officials said.

The speech is seen as a sequel to one Pence gave in October, when he accused China of reckless military actions, cyber attacks and human rights abuses, as well as “malign” efforts to undermine Trump’s reelection campaign in 2020.

The Huawei issue is the latest trade-related snafu to rock the relationship between the United States and Canada - normally two of the world’s closest allies - since President Donald Trump took office.

One of Trump’s first actions was to overhaul the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which he commonly refers to as one of the worst trade deals ever made.

But now that the three countries have agreed to a replacement, Pence has been traveling around trade-dependent U.S. states to urge its passage through the Congress. He will put the new deal - the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA - front and center during his first trip to Canada as vice president.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela. Pence has played a major role in the Trump administration’s diplomatic and economic efforts to force out President Nicolas Maduro.

Both Washington and Ottawa have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to declare himself interim president, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

The Trump administration has threatened a harder line against Cuba for its support of Maduro, but Trudeau has reached out to Havana to seek its help in settling the political conflict in Venezuela.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton, editing by G Crosse