'More than just spending'

Canada is demonstrating its commitment to NATO in ways that go beyond simple military spending, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

During a news conference Friday in Berlin, Trudeau acknowledged the spending target agreed to in 2014 by the members of the global military alliance — two per cent of GDP annually — but described Canada and Germany as principal NATO actors who do much of the "heavy lifting."

"There are many ways of evaluating one's contribution to NATO," Trudeau said, flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has already made it clear that Germany plans to boost its share of the financial burden.

"When you look at the countries that regularly step up — delivering troops, participating in missions, being there to do the heavy lifting in the alliance — Germany and Canada have always been amongst the strongest actors in NATO."

He said Canada is in the midst of "significant procurement projects" — fighter jets and shipbuilding, specifically — and working with NATO to ensure the alliance is being as effective as possible.

"It is a source of strength and pride for Canada that we will be taking on a framework mission in Latvia, leading the battle group there as an important part of strengthening NATO's eastern flank," he added.

"That is something we will always continue to stand for."

Canada's position stands in somewhat stark relief against the German message, although Merkel did make a broader point about the importance of NATO's role in the world, regardless of who might be picking up the cheque.

"This commitment (to the 2014 target) hasn't changed to this day, so we intend to pursue this political course; the defence budget this year compared to last year was increased by eight per cent, so that's an important step forward," Merkel said through a translator.

"Germany shows that it is ready and willing to acknowledge its responsibility in this respect."

Trudeau and Merkel also sang the praises of Canada's free trade deal with the European Union, just one way in which the two leaders are hoping to promote a progressive, pro-trade philosophy in the face of protectionist headwinds emanating from the United States.

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