WASHINGTON – President Biden met with his Canadian counterpart on Tuesday, agreeing to closer cooperation on climate change, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recovery and security in a bid to underscore the importance of US relations with its neighbor to the north.
The virtual meeting between Mr. Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aimed to allow the two sides to address issues that have preoccupied Ottawa and have contributed to a strained relationship in recent years.
Following these meetings, MM. Biden and Trudeau announced a new “partnership roadmap” to jointly address key issues. The meeting, Mr. Biden’s first one-on-one meeting as president with a foreign leader, followed his phone call to Mr. Trudeau two days after his inauguration.
Mr Biden said the two sides had “doubled down” on their efforts to tackle climate change in order to show leadership on the world stage to get other countries to do the same.
“Canada and the United States will work together to show the seriousness of our commitment both at home and abroad,” Biden said in a statement in the East Room of the White House Tuesday evening.
The two agreed that each country would launch a ministerial-level climate event to “align our policies and goals” to make joint efforts to tackle climate change more effective, administration officials said.
The two sides also agreed to strengthen the implementation of the Paris climate agreement by committing to increase the speed at which the two countries achieved net zero emissions by 2050.
The White House Biden joined the Paris Agreement this month after the Trump administration began the withdrawal process in 2019.
MM. Biden and Trudeau met by teleconference from their respective capitals, breaking away from the ceremonial greetings and discussions that usually accompany a first meeting between two leaders. In an opening ceremony ahead of the official meeting, Mr. Biden greeted Mr. Trudeau by video monitor.
Mr. Biden said the United States has “no closer friend than Canada,” while Mr. Trudeau said he is delighted to be working with the United States on climate change again. “American leadership has been sorely missed in recent years,” he said.
The meeting also focused on the need to modernize military capabilities, expand efforts to defend the Arctic region and ensure that military forces are ready to contribute to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have said administration officials.
The border between the United States and Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since last March. A Biden administration official sidestepped the question of when it would be opened on Monday, promising “collaboration and cooperation” with Canada on the matter.
The two countries also agreed on Tuesday on a joint response to Covid-19, including support for the World Health Organization and United Nations development agencies.
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Mr Biden called on China to release two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – who have been held for more than two years, in what Mr Trudeau described as retaliation for Canada’s role in arresting the Huawei chief Technologies Co. financial agent at the request of the United States.
“Human beings are not a bargaining chip,” Mr. Biden said.
Relations between the United States and Canada under former President Donald Trump have been strained due to the actions of the United States and the disagreements that have become public.
The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, has often pitted members of the Trump and Trudeau administrations against each other.
Canada and the United States also clashed over the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum made in Canada for national security reasons, which were subsequently removed, but not before Canada introduced its own retaliatory tariffs. Amid disagreements, Trudeau said in 2018 that it was “insulting” for Washington to view Canada as a threat to national security.
Tension peaked that year in June, following a summit of Group of Seven leaders in the Canadian province of Quebec. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Trudeau of being “gentle” and of making false statements at a press conference. The Canadian leader said he informed Mr. Trump that Canada “would not be rushed” on trade.
Mr. Trump said in a Twitter post, while aboard Air Force One flying to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, that Mr. Trudeau was “very dishonest and weak.”
At the end of 2019, Mr. Trump also called Mr. Trudeau “double-sided” after a video and audio was released showing Mr. Trudeau chatting with other Group of Seven leaders about Mr. Trump for the long press conferences.
The political kinship between MM. Biden and Trudeau can be traced back to at least late 2016, about six weeks before Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, when the then vice president congratulated Mr. Trudeau on a visit to Ottawa, claiming the world would. count on the Canadian leader to defend the liberal international order during tumultuous times.
Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com and Paul Vieira at firstname.lastname@example.org
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