President Joe Biden declared Canada and the United States’ best friends on Tuesday, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the friendship “extraordinary” in a virtual meeting that turns the page on the turbulent Donald Trump era.
“The United States has no closer friend than Canada,” Biden said, setting the tone for the video link between the White House and Trudeau’s Ottawa office.
Although Covid-19 restrictions physically kept the two leaders apart, they went out of their way to show that the giant neighbors are back to their traditional proximity after the tension in Trump’s “America First” policy.
“We have a robust agenda today and we are all best served when the United States and Canada work together and lead together,” Biden said in public comments before entering into closed-door talks.
Trudeau refunded the compliment, saying they would work “together to get through Covid but also to make sure we carry our weight around the world and make the world a better and safer place for everyone.”
Trudeau thanked Biden – which has put the United States back in Paris’ climate agreement to reduce global carbon emissions – for its global warming policy.
“US leadership has really been missed in recent, uh, recent years,” he said in a not-so-hidden dig against Trump.
The White House says Tuesday’s extensive talks will provide a “roadmap” for better relations.
Trump, who reclassified Canada and other American allies as competitors, had an sometimes tense personal relationship with Trudeau.
However, Trudeau was the first foreign leader to call Biden after he won the November election, and Trudeau was the first foreign leader the Democrat called after joining the Oval Office.
The White House emphasized the importance of US-Canada ties in multilateral environments, from the G7 to NATO, the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance and the WTO.
But while Canada is looking forward to more predictable behavior from its largest trading partner, Biden has already introduced its own new source of friction by suspending the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline project with reference to environmental considerations.
Criticism of China
Biden and Trudeau said they addressed several mutual priorities, including climate change and the upgrading of the North American economy.
“By being on the same line when it comes to several topics, such as climate change or economic revival, we can do more together,” says Trudeau’s office.
They also waded into the thorny issue of competing with China for global trade and Beijing’s continued detention of two Canadian citizens.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China in 2018 in what was considered likely retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei leader Meng Wanzhou that year on a US warrant.
“People do not exchange chips,” Biden said.
One area that Biden and Trudeau did not comment on in the public part of their comments was the US decision to suspend the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that was environmentally friendly but supported by Ottawa and earlier by Trump.
Biden revoked the permit by executive order on the first day of his term of office.
“The President made it clear that this is a commitment he has made in the past, that it is not in the interests of the United States and that we want to try to address our climate crisis while creating good paying union jobs,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said .
“The Prime Minister raised his concerns directly with the President, has in the past, and he is of course welcome to this day.”
Although virtual, the conversations closely followed the format of regular personal bilateral leadership meetings.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also attended with their Canadian counterparts.