Biden to meet Trudeau next month to discuss pandemic response

Canadian prime minister was the first foreign leader to speak with the new US president in a call highlighting ‘enduring’ ties between two neighbours.

Canada's Trudeau welcomes then-US Vice President Joe Biden in Ottawa in 2016 [File: Chris Wattie/Reuters]

Canada’s Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden plan to meet in person next month, the prime minister’s office has announced, following a call between the two leaders in which they agreed to join forces to combat coronavirus in North America.

“The two leaders agreed to meet next month in order to advance the important work of renewing the deep and enduring friendship between Canada and the United States,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement on Friday.

In a separate statement, the White House said the two leaders highlighted the “strategic importance of the US-Canada relationship” and discussed cooperation on a wide-ranging agenda including combating the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing climate change.

It said Biden and Trudeau agreed to speak again in a month and did not mention plans for a meeting.

Trudeau, who has been keen to embrace the new president and turn the page on the often tumultuous Donald Trump years, was the first foreign leader to speak with Biden since Wednesday’s inauguration.

“They discussed collaboration on vaccines and acknowledged that the two countries’ efforts are strengthened by existing exchanges of medical personnel and the flow of critical medical supplies,” according to a Canadian readout of the call.

Defence cooperation

The two also agreed to expand cooperation on continental defence and in the Arctic, and said their respective top defence and foreign affairs would meet at the earliest opportunity.

Trudeau earlier on Friday hailed Biden’s arrival as a “new era” for bilateral ties but the relationship has begun with an early disagreement after Biden scrapped the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the United States on his first day in office on Wednesday.

The White House statement said Biden acknowledged “Trudeau’s disappointment regarding the decision to rescind the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and reaffirmed his commitment to maintain an active bilateral dialogue and to further deepen cooperation with Canada”.

Pipeline builder TC Energy Corp said it would eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs in coming weeks due to the cancellation.

“The prime minister raised Canada’s disappointment with the United States’ decision on the Keystone XL pipeline,” according to Canada’s readout, which noted that Trudeau also brought up “the importance of the softwood lumber industry, and urged the removal of duties”.

The long-running dispute saw the Trump administration impose tariffs against what it saw as unfair subsidies for Canadian exporters of softwood lumber, which is used in home construction.

Source: AFP, Reuters