Justin Trudeau has praised Joe Biden for rejoining the Paris climate accord during their first bilateral meeting, saying, “The leadership of the United States has been sorely missed in recent years.”
The Canadian prime minister added: “And I have to say that while we were preparing the joint release of the communiqué on this, it is good when the Americans are not taking all the references to climate change and adding them instead.”
The meeting, held virtually between the Roosevelt Room of the White House and Trudeau in his Ottawa office due to the pandemic, was Biden’s first with a foreign counterpart since taking office.
Biden returned the compliments to Trudeau, saying, “America has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada.”
After speaking for about two hours, the two leaders emerged and said they planned to work closely together to beat the Covid-19 pandemic and combat climate change, with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Trudeau also thanked Biden for reiterating US support for the release of two Canadians held by China, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. “Humans are not trading tokens,” Biden said. “We will work together until we get his safe return.”
It was unclear whether Trudeau raised the idea of allowing Canada, which is struggling to vaccinate its population, to purchase vaccines at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s manufacturing facility in Michigan. Canada is receiving vaccines shipped from a Pfizer plant in Belgium.
Trudeau raised the issue when the two leaders spoke on the phone last month, Biden’s first call to a foreign leader as president. But Biden’s “first priority” remains “to ensure that all Americans are vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said before the meeting.
Another area of concern for Trudeau is the “Buy American” executive order that Biden signed during his first week in office. It’s designed to encourage the federal government to spend more than the roughly $ 600 billion earmarked for acquisitions to boost factories and hiring in the US.
Biden said that, as part of the push, he was creating a “Made in America” office to evaluate contracts and make sure waivers were used only in “very limited circumstances,” such as when there is an overwhelming need for national security, humanitarian or emergency in the United States. The issue is crucial for Canada, as the United States accounts for about 75% of its exports.
“I don’t expect you to make any commitments during today’s meeting,” Psaki said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of Canada receiving an exemption to the “Buy American Goods” order.
Spavor and Kovrig were detained in China following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada after the United States requested their extradition to face charges that the Chinese telecommunications company executive committed bank and cable fraud. and violated US sanctions against Iran. She denies the accusations.
China lashed out at Canada last week for joining the United States and 56 other countries in backing a statement denouncing the state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.
Canadian officials expect Trudeau to have a much more productive relationship with Biden than with Donald Trump. The Republican president, in a fit of resentment in 2018, took to Twitter after a meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized countries to smear the prime minister as “dishonest and weak” after Trudeau voiced objections to Trump raising tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.