Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump are expected to meet in person soon. But Canadian cabinet ministers are already beating a path to Washington to find common ground with their American counterparts.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Finance Minister Bill Morneau all travelled to Washington this week.
Others, including Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, have spoken to their counterparts by phone.
A “war room” has also been set up in the prime minister’s office to react to any challenges as President Trump upends traditional US policies and treaties.
As ministers lay the groundwork for the new relationship with the US administration, here are five cabinet match-ups to watch.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pose for photographs with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland
Mr Tillerson, an oil executive with decades of experience at Exxon Mobil, comes to the table with a deep knowledge of Canada, something Ms Freeland praised following their meeting.
The energy giant has major investments across Canada, which means the new secretary of state comes to any meeting with an understanding of Canada’s resource economy and the fact that it is America’s number one foreign energy supplier.
Canada’s foreign minister is a former journalist who has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ms Freeland is currently barred from Russia after being placed on a Kremlin sanctions list in retaliation for Canada’s response to its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Mr Tillerson is known for his close ties with Russia and received the Order of Friendship award from the Kremlin in 2013.
On Wednesday, the two talked Canada-US economic relations, Russia and Ukraine, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the shared border, and the fight against the so-called Islamic State.
“In making the case for how balanced and mutually beneficial our economic relationship was, I really felt I was pushing on an open door with everyone I spoke to,” Ms Freeland said.
While trade was a major topic, Ms Freeland noted that formal talks have yet to begin, given the fact that President Trump’s picks for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, have yet to be confirmed.
Trade, trade, and border tariffs – the United States is Canada’s top trading partner and millions of jobs rely on the flow of goods across the border. Ms Freeland, who is taking the lead on the Canada-US trade file, will have to deal with any renegotiations related to Nafta.
Ms Freeland warned Mr Tillerson that Canada strongly opposes the idea of the United States imposing new border tariffs and would “respond appropriately” to any such move.
Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan
The relationship between “Mad Dog” Mattis, a four-star Marine Corps general and Minister Sajjan, a police officer and combat veteran who has his own reputation for toughness, got off on the right foot.
The two defence officials met on Monday at the Pentagon, where Mr Mattis was quick to heap praise on the Canadian military he worked with in Afghanistan during his stint leading US Central Command, which oversees all US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Sajjan served three separate deployments to Kandahar, Afghanistan as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The two discussed shared national security issues like the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) partnership, the international coalition against the so-called Islamic State, and Canada’s replacement plans for its aging fighter jet fleet.
Nato – Mr Trump has repeatedly called on laggard nations, including Canada, to pay their full dues to the military alliance. The president has also sent contradictory signals on Nato, both criticising the alliance and offering his stout support.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
Mr Kelly and Mr Goodale have yet to meet in person, but the federal public safety minister has said that praise the retired Marine General has received from “a great many people” in Washington “augers well for a good stable relationship going forward”.
Still, the chaotic rollout of the US travel ban, which left Canadian officials scrambling to figure out whether Canadian dual nationals might be barred from entering the US, placed an early strain on the relationship.
It might help that Mr Kelly, who is responsible for a number of US security issues, from immigration to customs and airport security, has already taken partial blame for the chaotic rollout of the president’s executive order.
The border – Mr Trump’s executive order that temporarily bars people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US has raised concerns about the just how open the border will be to Canadians travelling south.
Though the fate of the ban is currently before the courts, Canada may still have to deal with its impacts, including on border pre-screening programmes.
Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Finance Minister Bill Morneau
Mr Morneau will not meet Secretary Mnuchin on his Thursday visit to the US capital, as Mr Mnuchin has yet to be confirmed.
But the Wall Street banker who made a fortune during his 17 years at Goldman Sachs is likely to find some common ground with Mr Morneau.
Canada’s finance minister also comes from a business background, with executive experience leading human resources firm Morneau Sheppell.
Mr Morneau is planning on meeting senior White House economic advises and a number of US senators on Thursday.
Trade – Before heading to DC this week, Mr Morneau said his main message during the trip would be the economic benefits of trade between the two countries, and protecting Canadian jobs.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Scott Pruitt and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna
Where Canada and the US previously committed to working together to the Paris agreement on climate, Mr Trump picked an outspoken critic of former President Obama’s climate change policies to head the EPA.
The former Oklahoma attorney general has also played a big role in legal challenges against EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms McKenna, meanwhile, is one of Mr Trudeau’s strongest champions for his government’s climate policies.
Climate change – Canada and the US currently have divergent climate goals but a history of harmonising efforts, such as aligning national emissions standards.
Various climate-change initiatives struck between Trudeau’s government and the previous administration may now be up in the air.