US President Joe Biden spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his first bilateral meeting with a foreign leader since taking office.
The two leaders highlighted mutual political priorities regarding climate change and China, including the release of two Canadians held there.
“Human beings do not barter chips,” Biden said Tuesday.
Countries also pledged to align climate targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Canada is often the chosen destination for a US president’s first overseas trip, but Covid-19 has sabotaged Mr Biden’s plans. Instead, the meeting was held remotely.
Mr. Biden, a Democrat, is hoping to hit the reset button with Mr. Trudeau, a liberal whose relationship with former Republican U.S. President Trump was often seen as difficult.
Mr. Trudeau also pledged to work with the United States to “get through Covid but also to ensure that we are doing everything we can around the world.”
The leaders did not respond to questions from reporters, which is unusual in Washington for a bilateral event like this.
What has been said about China?
A major problem for the two leaders is the detention in China of two Canadians, who have been accused of espionage and held in prison since 2018.
Canada alleges the men were arrested in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei leader Meng Wanzhou on a US arrest warrant.
Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018 and formally charged in June 2020.
Calling for their release in remarks after the meeting, Mr Biden said: “Human beings do not trade tokens. We will work together until we get them back safely.”
Smiles and promises of better days
Much of the pageantry of a formal bilateral leaders’ meeting was missing at the White House, but Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau both expressed optimism that US-Canada relations were on the verge of breaking down. improve after Donald Trump’s tumultuous four years in the White House. Housing.
“American leadership has been sorely missed over the past few years,” Trudeau told his American counterpart at the start of what was, in essence, a glorified video conference. He was talking about the changing attitude of the United States towards climate change, but that kind of sentiment permeated public parties of the events of the day.
Trudeau had clashed very publicly with Trump, in a war of words waged via press releases and dueling tweets. Now, Trudeau said, he looked forward to working closely with the United States again.
At the end of the day, in their closing statements, Trudeau referred to Biden as “Joe”, and Biden promised Trudeau – who towered over a giant screen next to him – that the United States “has no more. close nor more important. friend than Canada “.
The two countries still have notable differences – on trade and pipeline construction in particular – but at least for a day, it was all smiles and promises of better days to come.
What has been said about climate change?
In his opening remarks, Mr. Trudeau criticized the Trump administration and thanked Mr. Biden for “stepping up.”
The Prime Minister added: “As we prepare for the joint deployment and the communiqué … it’s good when the Americans don’t remove all references to climate change.”
Mr. Biden later said Canada and the United States “would work together to show the seriousness of our commitment. [to climate change] both at home and abroad “.
But the two leaders have not commented publicly on the White House’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would have transported oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to US refineries.
In a phone call two days after Mr. Biden took office – Mr. Biden’s first official call as president – Mr. Trudeau expressed his “disappointment” at the pipeline’s decision . A US official later said the shutdown “would not be reconsidered.”
Earlier on Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Mr. Biden made it clear to Mr. Trudeau that the project was’ not in the best interests of the United States and that we want to try to resolve our climate crisis, while creating well-paying union jobs. “.
The United States and Canada share one of the largest trading partnerships in the world, trading nearly $ 2 billion (C $ 2.5 billion / £ 1.4 billion) in goods and services daily.