Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel for a “poutine summit” at an Ottawa chip wagon Friday.
Yes, poutine, as in that one and only savoury union of fries, gravy, and cheese curds — which has apparently become a go-to icebreaker with visiting dignitaries whenever cameras are involved.
Friday poutine summit - welcoming PM Charles Michel of Belgium to Canada for the first time. Thank you, Charles, for your partnership as our countries work together to help businesses thrive and our middle class prosper. 🇨🇦🇧🇪 Sommet de la poutine en ce vendredi pour accueillir le PM Charles Michel de Belgique lors de sa première visite au Canada. Merci de votre partenariat, Charles, pendant que nos pays collaborent pour favoriser la prospérité des entreprises et de la classe moyenne.
Trudeau and Michel were both joined by their partners Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Amélie Derbaudrenghien.
But poutine isn’t all that they ate, Trudeau also ordered a round of hot dogs.
Later, at a news conference addressing the Canada-European trade agreement, Michel went off-topic to credit Trudeau with introducing him to poutine, which he described as “very, very good.”
“I can tell you that as a Belgian I am an expert naturally and a connoisseur with regards to French fries,” Michel said in French.
The Belgian PM’s surprise encounter with fries haven't always been good.
In 2014, a feminist activist group pelted Michel with fries and mayo over concerns increased market competitiveness would lead to more austerity measures.
Belgian PM to Trudeau: ‘We have excellent potatoes’
Trudeau accepted Michel’s poutine summit compliment and tried to steer the focus back onto the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel hold a joint news conference in the foyer of the House Commons on June 16, 2017. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
“I would like to underline that with this agreement we will be able to send you more cheese curds to make poutines,” he said.
To which Michel replied in French, “We have excellent potatoes in Belgium that we could send you as well.”
The free trade deal will shave 98 per cent of tariffs on both sides, opening Canadian businesses to a market of 500 million Europeans.
But it’s not all smiles over the thought of Belgian frites and squeaky cheese curd exports.
A report published in International Journal of Political Economy, authors Pierre Kohler and Servaas Storm warn the deal could eliminate 23,000 trade-related jobs in Canada by 2023.
CETA was approved by the European Parliament in February after seven years of negotiations.