Biden to hold virtual meeting with Trudeau next week

Joe Biden’s first meeting with foreign head of government since becoming president will be with Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he and US President Joe Biden would discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change in their meeting next week, among other topics [File: Blair Gable/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting next week with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in what will be Biden’s first official meeting with a foreign head of government since he took office last month.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would “highlight the strong and deep partnership between the United States and Canada as neighbours, friends and NATO Allies” in the meeting on Tuesday.

Biden and his cabinet will also meet virtually with Canadian ministers to discuss “a range of bilateral and global issues”, Psaki said in a statement on Saturday.

Trudeau welcomed the upcoming meeting, tweeting that he and Biden would “focus on ending the pandemic, growing the middle class and creating jobs, and fighting climate change” in their discussions.

Since taking office on January 20, Biden has sought to re-engage with some of the US’s traditional allies, including Canada and the European Union.

Most US presidents go to either Mexico or Canada on their first official trip after being sworn in, but former President Donald Trump eschewed that tradition in 2017 when he instead went to Saudi Arabia.

The US and Canada are staunch allies, sharing the world’s longest land border and trading hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods and services annually.

But bilateral ties suffered under Trump, as the former US president withdrew the country from several international accords, forced renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminium and steel.

Trudeau was the first foreign leader to speak directly to Biden after his November presidential election victory, however, signalling a return to the status quo.

The Canadian prime minister has said he looks forward to working with the US president on climate issues, among other things – though Trudeau expressed disappointment at Biden’s decision to cancel a contentious oil pipeline between the two countries.

CBC News reported the Keystone XL pipeline would likely come up during Tuesday’s meeting, though it would not be a major topic of discussion.

Trudeau also is expected to bring up the ongoing detention of two Canadians – businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig – in China, according to CBC, which cited an unnamed source.

Meanwhile, Canadian officials said on Friday the US-Canada border would remain closed to non-essential travel until at least March 21 due to the coronavirus.

The US has recorded the world’s most COVID-19 cases and coronavirus-related deaths, while Canada is trying to contain the spread of new, more easily transmissible variants during the pandemic’s second wave.

“We will continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe from #COVID19,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted about the continued border closure.

Source: Al Jazeera