Remarks at the State Luncheon in Honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Washington, DC
March 10, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Please be seated, everybody. Good afternoon. Welcome – bonjour welcome to the State Department. (In French.) We’re happy to have you here. We welcome all of the delegation, the first lady, prime minister, and we’re delighted to have everybody here.

I want to begin by thanking the members of the U.S. Army Band and the U.S. Air Force Band for sharing their exceptional skills with us. And they are – I think all of you will agree – absolutely terrific and everybody here joins me in thanking them for their service to our country. (Applause.)

I also want to express my appreciation to the Whiffenpoofs – the famous a cappella group from Yale University – who were singing as you came up. And we’re going to have the privilege of hearing them again during dessert, with another treat also. We’re very, very happy to be able to welcome Rufus Wainwright here. And I think – (applause) – I want you to know I’m finally ready to forgive the Yale Whiffenpoofs for not recruiting me when I was a student – (laughter) – on the flimsy grounds that I can’t sing. (Laughter.)

Finally, I want to thank Chef Spike Mendelsohn. Is Spike visible here? There he is. Spike. (Applause.) Spike hails from Montreal, everybody. He has become a celebrity in Washington, D.C., not only because of his multiple television appearances on Top Chef, but because his restaurants are just that good. Spike is a member of the American Chef Corps, which is our culinary ambassadors who engage and travel abroad to promote cultural ties through the shared love of food. And we’re very, very grateful for that, and for the time and talent that has been taken to put into today’s lunch.

Mr. Prime Minister, we are gathered here this afternoon in a room named for Benjamin Franklin, who you see down there. His portrait is looking at us from right over the fireplace. He’s probably waiting for somebody here to offer him a drink still. (Laughter.) Ben would have loved to have been around for this. In 1760, he wrote a pamphlet, which I just showed to the prime minister, an original copy of which – some of you who want to take a moment and go in there afterwards, you can see it – urging the British to reject a plan to give Canada to the French in return for some Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe among them. And in 1776, he – Ben – headed a diplomatic mission to Quebec seeking Canadian support in the Revolutionary War. Now, the mission failed, but Franklin returned with an absolutely spectacular fur hat. (Laughter.) And he took this fur hat with him to Paris when he became ambassador to France a few years later. The ladies of Paris loved the hat, folks. But I want you to know, on the other hand, they really loved Franklin. (Laughter.) And that is one of the many reasons why, if Ben were alive today and he was nominated for some high position, there is not a chance on earth that the United States Senate would confirm him. (Laughter.)

So I am delighted to welcome all of you here today. It’s really an honor to be in the presence of the world’s most influential Canadian. And I know that the prime minister is similarly excited to be here with Lorne Michaels. (Laughter.) Lorne, we’re happy you’re here. Thank you.

Also I want to acknowledge the fact that two former secretaries are here. Secretary Colin Powell, thank you for joining us. Secretary Henry Kissinger, thank you for joining us. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it really is a privilege for us to be able to host the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau here at the State Department.

Prime Minister Trudeau lifted his party to one of the most impressive electoral victories in Canadian history. And I want you to know he has a favorability rating that is equal to that of Wayne Gretzky and Rachel McAdams – well ahead of Justin Bieber, by the way. (Laughter.) And it is very, very clear that he has a lot of fans here in the United States; many of them lined up outside to welcome him as he came in the State Department. I don’t think I’ve seen as many cameras out in the department for any visiting head of government. And I will tell you that I can’t think of any other reason why Google hits for the search term “moving to Canada” – (applause) – have reached an all-time high --

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: Can’t think of any other reason. No.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- in recent months. (Laughter.) Although, I don’t know – if you’ve noticed and done your homework, those hits spike after each and every presidential debate, folks. (Laughter.)

Prime Minister Trudeau and I actually have a lot in common. He is young, hip, good-looking – (laughter) – popular head of state, and a hockey fan. I, too, am a big hockey fan. (Laughter.)

It is clear that the prime minister really has begun to make his mark on Canada’s future. In the few months that he has been in office, he has demonstrated remarkable leadership on refugees, on climate change, on advancing the status of women and girls, and much more. And it’s also clear that the deep centuries-old bond that our nations share – as President Obama said this morning – there’s nothing fake about it. There’s nothing contrived. These are not just words. It is real. This is a relationship that is as strong as ever, and both the United States and Canada have a profound interest in building on that bond in the time ahead. (Applause.)

The fact is that no country so directly impacts American life as does Canada. A lot of people don’t focus on that every day. It’s, to some degree, as the President and the prime minister acknowledged earlier, taken for granted. But on a daily basis, more than $1.8 billion of goods and services is exchanged between our two nations – on a daily basis. For the majority of U.S. states, including my home commonwealth of Massachusetts, Canada is the number one export market. Along the U.S.-Canadian border, the longest international border in the world, there are more than 120 crossings. And on any given day, nearly 400,000 people pass through them on their way to work, school, personal visits, or vacation.

Now, let me be clear. The reason that our friendship has endured is not a matter of geography. It’s the extraordinary depth of affection and respect that exists between our peoples. It is our nation’s commitment to shared interests and shared values and to promoting and defending those interests and those values around the world, and we couldn’t have a better partner in doing that.

That’s why, as NATO allies, our military men and women have served side by side in Kosovo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. Together they curb threats to stability, increase citizens’ security, and provide essential humanitarian aid to local communities. It’s why our nations have joined our European partners in demonstrating solidarity for a democratic Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. It’s why we’re collaborating closely on counterterrorism in the fight against Daesh.

Now, I want to emphasize how much we appreciate Prime Minister Trudeau’s decisions and the choices he has made regarding that effort – his generosity also, and his courage in welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. (Applause.)

It is also why our nations recently joined together to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will deepen trade and investment, raise labor and environmental standards, and link together countries that represent nearly 40 percent of global GDP. It’s why at the OAS we have worked together to defend and advance an Inter-American Human Rights System under pressure from those seeking to silence the voices of the powerless and the abused. And it’s also why we are so focused on addressing climate change, which poses a grave threat to our entire continent, our entire planet, and our collective future. And we are just delighted to have a partner who understands and acts on the science. (Applause.)

We can all really be proud that in December the United States and Canada worked hard and joined together – and I see Todd Stern is here, and others who worked on that great effort – to help the – some 200 nations come together, making historic progress in negotiating the Paris agreement. And in a joint statement released earlier today, both of our countries committed to signing that agreement at the UN on the first day that it is available for signature on Earth Day, April 22nd, and officially joining the agreement this year. (Applause.)

President Franklin Roosevelt once commented that he never heard Americans ever refer to Canadians as foreigners, and vice versa. That is still true today. For centuries, U.S. and Canadian citizens have married each other, attended each other’s universities, worked in industries on both sides of the border, competed in the same professional sports league, watched the same movies, listened to the same music, and fought in parallel tracks for civil and human rights in all of their many dimensions. We are partners. We are allies. We are friends. We are family. And the United States looks forward to continuing its work with Canada, side by side, on the full range of challenges and opportunities that are confronting our nations today.

I know you’re all looking forward to lunch and to taking a selfie with the Stanley Cup afterwards. (Laughter.) And we want to hear from our distinguished and honored guest, but let me, as I introduce him, drink a toast, if I may, to Prime Minister Trudeau and our Canadian partners. May our extraordinary bond continue to benefit our people, the hemisphere, and the people of the world. Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you.

(A toast was given.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the prime minister of Canada. (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU: Thank you. Thank you for this warm welcome. (In French.)

Really, it’s a pleasure to be here today and to hear so many kind words about me and about our country. It reminds me of something that Mark Twain said in 1881, when he was the guest of honor in an event in my hometown of Montreal. He said, “That a banquet should be given to me in this ostensibly foreign land and in this great city, and that my ears should be greeted by such complimentary words and such distinguished lips, are eminent surprises to me and also deeply gratifying.” Of course, he went on to say that during his time in Quebec he had behaved with propriety and distinction – discretion – and had meddled nowhere but in the election. (Laughter.) Well, let me assure you I’ll be sticking with propriety and discretion. (Laughter.)

I do understand Twain’s gratitude, though. It is with that same sense of appreciation that I extend my thanks on behalf of Sophie and our entire Canadian delegation, and indeed on behalf of all Canadians, for your warm and generous welcome. We are honored to be your guests today.

We’re here in Washington to celebrate and strengthen the friendship between our two countries, and also to roll up our sleeves and get some real work done. Because when Canadians and Americans do that, when we work together, the results can transform the world. Together, we’ve negotiated trade agreements that have extended opportunities for Canadian and American businesses, created millions of good, well-paying jobs for our workers, and made more products more affordable for more Canadian and American families. Just this morning we announced a continental strategy to combat the gravest challenge now facing our planet: climate change. (In French.)

These moments are important because they are an opportunity to work through our differences. They give us a chance to affirm all that we’ve accomplished so far, and most importantly, they help us chart the course for what comes next.

Secretary Kerry, John, when you visited Canada back in January, you expressed your hope that our countries would work together along with our partner, Mexico, to exercise positive, ambitious leadership and to advance our shared vision of a safe, growing, prosperous, and competitive North America. I give you my pledge that Canada is committed to doing just that.

We will do our part to offer a positive and inclusive brand of leadership, and we will work with you to help secure a better future for all our citizens, especially for those on whom our economic security rests, the middle class and those working so hard to join it.

I don’t want to keep you any longer. I know that Montreal’s own Spike Mendelsohn has helped to prepare today’s meal, and I am as eager as you are to enjoy it, if not more so. So I would ask you all now to join me in a toast:

To the Secretary of State, to all gathered here today, and to the people of the United States of America, may we continue to show the world what friendship between neighbors truly means.


SECRETARY KERRY: Well done, thank you. Folks, please – (applause). Thank you.