Canada must become the “best of friends” with South Korea, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told lawmakers in Seoul on Wednesday, as the two countries seek to counter China’s growing regional influence.
Trudeau is on his first official visit to South Korea, where he will meet President Yoon Suk Yeol.
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“I’m here to tell you that it’s no longer enough to be friends. We need to be the best of friends,” Trudeau said during a speech to Seoul’s National Assembly.
He told lawmakers that unity was needed as the world was facing a moment of unprecedented uncertainty, with lingering consequences from the Covid-19 pandemic, rising living costs, and the “real and terrifying” effects of climate change and war.
Trudeau and Yoon are expected to discuss ways to deepen cooperation on supply chains, especially for critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries, which Canada has reserves of and which are needed by South Korea’s car manufacturers.
Canadian media outlets also reported on possible meetings between Trudeau and top executives from South Korean battery maker LG Energy Solution.
The company and its partner, auto manufacturer Stellantis, halted construction work this week on a massive EV battery plant in Canada, saying Trudeau’s government “has not delivered on what was agreed to”.
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Trudeau’s visit follows a trip by Yoon to Ottawa last year.
Since then, the two countries have released their Indo-Pacific strategies, providing a road map for boosting military and economic relationships in the region, to counter the growing influence of China.