Canada will lead new training mission for Iraq: NATO Secretary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau departs Ottawa for Riga Latvia on Monday

The mission is the natural next step for Canada, as we move forward from the successful fight against Daesh to helping build institutional capacity in Iraq and create the foundations for longer-term peace and stability.

But while he acknowledged the tensions between Canada and the USA playing out in a trade dispute triggered by American tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Trudeau said the US remains a close friend and trading partner regardless of who is prime minister or president. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has asserted numerous times that Canada remains committed to leading the mission for the foreseeable future. Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro went as far as telling a US talk show that there was "a special place in hell" for Trudeau, though he later walked back the remark.

The prime minister is expected to use the extension to defend Canada from criticism from Trump that America's northern neighbour is not spending enough on defence.

Canada does have a plan to increase its defence spending over the next 10 years, he stressed - a plan that his government's own projections show will only reach 1.4 per cent of GDP by 2024.

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The training mission, in the works for at least two years, will be commanded by a Canadian major-general, and Canadian troops will provide the bulk of the headquarters staff. Trudeau informed that Canada would contribute CF-18 fighter aircraft to help guard Baltic airspace and would also provide assistance to Latvia in cyber-defense.

He called the extended mission of Canadian troops in Latvia "a great present" that will contribute significantly to national security.

Estimates published on Tuesday showed that Portugal spent nearly €2.4 billion last year on defence and is expected to increase this to more than €2.7 billion or 1.36% of GDP this year.

The Liberal government actually changed the way Canada reports its defence spending to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation past year, largely to ensure its investments were being properly acknowledged amid USA pressure to spend more.

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The NATO Secretary General announced that in future the Alliance will be able to quickly transfer troops from the U.S. and Canada to Europe if necessary.

"In order to trade we have to have safety", he said.

Eihenbaums said security is also a concern when it comes to trade - Latvia has been trying to grow its exports to Canada under the Canada-EU trade agreement.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story.

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