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Biden, Trudeau hold first bilateral meeting


Biden, Trudeau hold first bilateral meeting
US President Joe Biden and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, appearing via video conference call, give closing remarks at the end of their virtual bilateral meeting from the White House in Washington, US, February 23, 2021. (Reuters)

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Washington/Ottawa – United States President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought on Tuesday to turn the page on the Trump era, stressing the countries’ deep ties and pledging to work together on COVID-19 and climate change in their first bilateral meeting.

“The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada,” Biden told Trudeau via an electronic video link with the Canadian leader and top aides. “That’s why you were my first call as president (and) my first bilateral meeting,” he said.

The two leaders “robust” agenda would address the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, climate change, refugees and migration, fighting for democratic values around the globe and strengthening democracies at home, Biden said.

Trudeau welcomed the Biden administration, citing in particular Washington’s renewed attention to climate change in contrast to former US President Donald Trump.

“Thank you, again, for stepping up in such a big way on tackling climate change. US leadership has been sorely missed over the past years,” the Canadian leader said.

Canada has often been a US president’s first foreign stop, but the COVID-19 pandemic turned the sit-down between the two leaders and some of their top deputies into a virtual affair.

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other officials, all wearing dark masks, sat at a long table in a White House meeting room, near a large video screen beaming in Trudeau’s image from Ottawa.

It was not clear the meeting would result in any new deal on issues including Canada’s access to vaccines produced in the United States or a shared standoff with China over the detention of a Huawei executive.

It is expected to yield a shared document outlining cross-government collaboration on a wide range of issues, a senior US administration official told reporters.

Biden irritated Ottawa shortly after taking office on January 20 by blocking the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline project to pump oil sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska, and proposing a “Buy American” programme aimed at directing more US spending toward domestic manufacturers.

But the two leaders made clear they wanted to put the dispute behind them and work together. (Reuters)