Pence tells Canada he's 'proud' to oppose abortion

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Canada PM Justin Trudeau and US VP Mike Pence were in Ottawa to discuss trade and other issues

US Vice-President Mike Pence says he is "proud to be part of a pro-life administration" after being pressed on the issue during a visit to Canada.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said the two men had a "cordial conversation" about abortion laws in the US despite their difference of views.

Mr Trudeau has said he is concerned about the "backsliding" of women's rights south of the border.

The PM and the VP also discussed issues related to trade and China.

In the US, the contentious issue of abortion has been front-and-centre this year as nearly a dozen states have moved to pass new, stricter laws on abortion.

Critics have pointed at what they see as an orchestrated challenge to a decades-old US Supreme Court ruling that protected a woman's right to choose an abortion.

Mr Pence is known for his staunch opposition to abortion.

Mr Trudeau, on the other hand, is outspoken in support of reproductive rights.

The two were able to diplomatically sidestep any tensions when asked about that discussion by reporters on Thursday.

Mr Pence said the Trump administration "will always stand for the right to life".

"But those are debates within the United States and I know that Canada will deal with those issues in a manner that the people of Canada have determined most appropriate."

Amid the political firestorm over state-level anti-abortion bills in the US, in Canada the Liberals have been pressuring their Conservative rivals over their stance on the issue in the run-up to the general election.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer - who has supported pro-life legislation in the past - has vowed that if he were to form government he would not reopen the debate.

'Energetic efforts' on trade

Meanwhile, much of the discussion on Thursday revolved around efforts to ratify the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USCMA, the new North American trade deal.

None of the three countries have ratified the agreement, though Canada moved to ratify USCMA by formally presenting it to parliament on Wednesday. Mexico is also moving towards its ratification.

Mr Pence said there were "energetic efforts" being made to get the stamp of approval from Congress this summer.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been detained in China since December

China detainees

Canada also sought assurances from the US that they would assist in the case of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were arrested in China.

They are believed to have been detained in retaliation for December's arrest in Canada of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US.

In a joint statement, both Mr Trudeau and Mr Pence called for their immediate release and said that China's actions were damaging its international reputation.