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‘US leadership has been sorely missed.’ Trudeau, Biden seek to repair alliance in first meeting

  • February 24, 2021

Justin Trudeau on Tuesday – his first bilateral meeting – focused on the response to COVID-19, economic cooperation and other shared interests among the two close allies.   

In a brief statement afterwards, Biden called the meeting “very productive,” and said he and Trudeau agreed to work closely together on a wide range of issues, including the pandemic, the economic recovery and climate change. 

He said the U.S. and Canada would launch a joint initiative to meet a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, agreeing to “double down” on climate change commitments “to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions.” 

Biden also promised to take up an urgent Canadian priority: seeking the release of two Canadian men held in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Chinese officials detained the two men last year in an apparent effort to pressure Canada to release a top executive of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou. 

mercilessly mocked Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak.” 

Although the Trump administration eventually forged a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the Trump-Trudeau relationship remained fraught. In 2019, a viral video surfaced in which the Canadian prime minister and other world leaders were overheard having a laugh at Trump’s expense during a NATO summit. Trump responded by calling Trudeau “two-faced.” 

By contrast, Tuesday’s meeting between Biden and Trudeau was full of diplomatic niceties and a return to normalcy. 

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington. From left, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Council senior director for the Western Hemisphere Juan Gonzalez. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ORG XMIT: DCEV130

That’s not to say there won’t be areas of disagreement. 

On his first day in office, Biden canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project to move heavy crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, rescinding Trump’s approval of a project long criticized by environmentalists. 

Trudeau expressed “disappointment” with the decision, the prime minister’s office said after Biden’s announcement. It’s not clear if Trudeau sought to revisit the Keystone issue in during Tuesday’s closed-door meeting. 

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