PARIS -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday defended their shared efforts to ease the worries of their citizens, denounced those seeking to capitalize on such fears and dismissed the notion that their message wasn't breaking through to an anxious electorate.
Standing together in the regal ballroom of the Elysee Palace following their second face-to-face meeting in a month, the two leaders acknowledged that many people in Canada, France and elsewhere are nervous about their future.
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The growth of digital technology that automates tasks and threatens jobs, concerns about immigration and the threat of climate change have led to a rise in isolationism, said Macron, and a decline in political discourse.
Without naming anyone in particular, both leaders singled out for blame those Trudeau described as trying "to amplify or echo back those fears to people without actually offering solutions," before touting their shared attempts at home and abroad to address those fears.
"What Emmanuel knows, what I know, what we've been working very hard on both together and individually and in our countries, has been to demonstrate to people that our institutions can function," Trudeau said. "Our governments can function to support families."
Both leaders cited free trade -- Trudeau welcomed Macron's plan to get the EU-Canada free trade deal ratified as a positive sign -- and advancing the fight against climate change as essential elements for global prosperity and easing voters' anxieties, and promised to advance gender rights and other shared values.
Those efforts will get a boost on the international stage as France succeeds Canada as president of the G7, meaning the progressive agenda Macron and Trudeau share will continue in that forum for at least another year.
After hosting numerous national leaders this week for D-Day commemorations, Macron will again welcome Trudeau and other G7 leaders at a summit in August. The environmentally conscious French president said leaders needed to meet while also being careful about their travels' carbon footprints -- an issue the Opposition Conservatives have tried to hang on Trudeau at home, accusing him of climate-change hypocrisy.
"If the leaders of this world cannot meet on a regular basis and discuss, then it will give rise to misunderstandings," Macron said, adding divisions between countries "will lead to conflicts."
While Trudeau and Macron were clearly on the same page, the question is whether voters in each of their countries are buying their messages. Both have struggled with low approval ratings as right-wing nationalism at home and elsewhere has grown.
Both leaders dismissed the polls, saying such surveys have no bearing on their actions and the only arbiter of success or failure is an election.
"It's not about popularity," said Trudeau, who was in Paris after two days of commemorations in the United Kingdom and France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. "It's about doing things concretely the right way that are going to make a difference in Canadians' lives and our citizens' lives.
"That's what we remain focused on and that's what certainly on a personal level I'm looking forward to talking about as we embark on this election campaign."
Macron's party came second to a far-right party in European Parliament elections last month.
The French president, who met U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday while marking the D-Day anniversary, appeared to be talking about that pivotal moment of the Second World War when he said it's easier to promote "us-versus-them" messages instead of solutions.
"That is what history shows us," Macron said, adding: "We need to show that democracy is effective. That we have an avenue that we are following to ... help our societies."June 7, 2019
Macron offers his gratitude to the Canadian people for their role in th Second World War on behalf of the French people— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says Canada and France are committeed to defending important issues like international justice, climate and solving conflicts through dialogue. This stems from the lessons of the Second World War— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says there were concerns about implementation on CETA, but a lot of work has been done since 2017. He says today they want to move ahead. He says France is moving towards ratification and vote at National Assembly expected to happen soon.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says work has been done and France has shown a will of openness. He says he hopes France can bring the legitimate guarantees to the NGO, economic operators and the public. No actual date or timeline but says ratification of CETA will hopefully happen soon— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Now to Trudeau, he says it’s a pleasure to be back in France. He thanks Macron for organizing the International Commemoration of D-Day landings at Juno Beach. pic.twitter.com/ORbS1eQB9Q— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Trudeau says that in many ways the bonds of friendship between the two countries became even stronger on the battle grounds of the Second World War.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
On trade, Trudeau says Macron committed to quickly ratify CETA. He says the agreement is in place provisionally and many benefits have been observed.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
CETA represents a future for a tighter economic partnership between Canada and France. A first reading will happen in the National Assembly this Summer, Trudeau says.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
On Climate, Trudeau says a lot of work has been done in the last year but it’s just a start. He says France intends to continue a number of initiatives, Ocean Plastics Charter and efforts to protect biodiversity, that were put forward by Canada at last year’s G7.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says he defended multilateralism before trump yesterday. Did he listen? Macron says this is a question that should be asked to Trump. He says he can’t vouch for what others understand or hear from his statements— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says the dialogue about multilateralism needs to continue. He says polls never guide his decision and it’s the elections that are the litmus test.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Macron says there are fears of migration and they can impact democracies. Some will brandish these fears to promote an inward looking, isolationism approach. Challenges push towards a progressive approach, Macron says.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Trudeau says it’s not about popularity, but concrete actions that can put people’s fears at ease. He says when he got elected he felt the fears many had that the middle class was losing out and that’s why Canada started changing trade agreements and removing breaks for the rich— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
In English, Trudeau says he is seeing more anxiety amongst Canadians about their jobs and future. He says both countries have been trying to show people that governments can function to help families instead of helping the wealthy. That doesn’t create economic growth, he says— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Multilateralism is undergoing a crisis from a trade and climate point of view because of diverging views and that’s why G7 and G20 meetings are important to have these crucial discussions, Macron says. He says it’s important to reduce these conflicts.— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019
Canada got one question, France got one question. We were set to have two. President’s aid told me in France they don’t do bilingual answers and that takes more time. https://t.co/b5WUSEcjKn— Annie BergeronOliver (@AnnieClaireBO) June 7, 2019