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Visiting Belgian royals won’t meet with Trudeau due to ‘agenda issues’

Belgian royals visiting Canada would have liked to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the Canadian leader was busy touring aluminum and steel smelters to reassure workers this week.

King Philippe and his wife Mathilde arrived in Ottawa on Sunday for the first visit by Belgian royals since 1977, and over the coming days will also make stops in Toronto and Montreal.

Royal watchers and officials said the couple would have liked to meet Trudeau before they leave Saturday.

But a scheduling conflict and Trudeau’s tour of Canadian steel and aluminum cities to show his support for these industries after the US announced tariffs on the metals made it impossible.

In line with protocol, Canadian Governor General Julie Payette, who represents Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, welcomed the king and queen at her official residence on Monday.

“The essence of a state visit is a meeting of the two heads of state,” Patrick Renault, a spokesman for the royals, told AFP.

“But we’re not surprised at all about not having a meeting with the prime minister. We were aware that there were agenda issues on both sides for some time.”

The Belgian royals were accompanied on the trip by seven government ministers, including Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, academics and business executives — hoping to bolster cultural and trade ties between the two nations under the Canada-EU free trade agreement that came into force in September.

Although Trudeau was unavailable, four Canadian ministers were expected to meet with the Belgian delegation, including Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

“It is a great pleasure to deepen the long-standing relationship between our two countries,” said Trudeau’s spokesman Cameron Ahmad.