Biden seeks to ‘reinvigorate’ US-Canada relations in first bilateral meeting with Trudeau

President Joe Biden will hold a virtual tête-à-tête with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday – his first bilateral meeting – focused on the response to COVID-19, economic cooperation and other shared interests among the two close allies.  

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she expects Biden to highlight the “strong and deep partnership between the United States and Canada as neighbors, friends, and NATO allies.” 

Trudeau was the first foreign leader to congratulate Biden on his election win, and perhaps it’s no wonder.

The U.S.-Canada relationship was deeply strained during the Trump administration, with tensions spiking over trade and spilling over into personal insults. Former President Donald Trump disparaged Canadians as a bunch of trade cheaters, and he mercilessly mocked Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak.” 

Although the Trump administration eventually forged a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the Trump-Trudeau relationship remained fraught. In 2019, a viral video surfaced in which the Canadian prime minister and other world leaders were overheard having a laugh at Trump’s expense during a NATO summit. Trump responded by calling Trudeau “two-faced.” Justin Trudeau wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a flag: The U.S. and Canadian border will likely stay closed past the current closure agreement which expires on Oct. 21.© Provided by USA TODAY The U.S. and Canadian border will likely stay closed past the current closure agreement which expires on Oct. 21.

By contrast, Tuesday’s meeting between Biden and Trump is expected to be full of diplomatic niceties and a return to normalcy. 

An administration official, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the meeting would lead to a “roadmap to re-invigorate U.S.-Canada collaboration,” particularly on climate change. 

The White House said the two leaders will announce the launch of “a high-level climate ministerial” and commit “to increase the scale and speed of action toward the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.”

That’s not to say there won’t be areas of disagreement. 

On his first day in office, Biden canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project to move heavy crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, rescinding Trump’s approval of a project long criticized by environmentalists. 

Trudeau expressed “disappointment” with the decision, the prime minister’s office said after Biden’s announcement. It’s not clear if Trudeau will seek to revisit the Keystone issue in Tuesday’s meeting, but the administration official said Biden will stand by his decision. 

The United States and Canada have long enjoyed warm relations, bound by a shared border that stretches 5,525 miles, along with extensive trade and investment ties. 

Contributing: Michael Collins

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