Biden to meet virtually with Trudeau on Tuesday in first meeting with a foreign leader


U.S. President Joe Biden’s first official meeting with a foreign head of government will be a virtual encounter on Tuesday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The president will highlight the strong and deep partnership between the United States and Canada as neighbours, friends and NATO allies,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

The Prime Minister’s Office said meeting agenda items include the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery, job creation, maintaining cross-border supply chains, climate change, energy, defence and security, and diversity and inclusion.

In a statement, Trudeau said he looked forward to the meeting and working with Biden to end the pandemic. 

The lengthy video meeting is expected to last more than one hour and will include a one-on-one chat between the leaders, as well as an expanded session between U.S. and Canadian cabinet members and officials. 

The U.S. president’s Keystone XL pipeline cancellation is expected to come up but will not likely be a main focus of the meeting. 

The detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China is also expected to be raised by Trudeau, according to a source who spoke to CBC News confidentially.

Cross-border tensions won’t disappear

Biden has already had a series of phone conversations with a number of leaders, starting with Trudeau, shortly after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The new administration has signalled its desire to improve relationships with traditional American partners by scheduling his first calls, and now a first meeting, with the country’s democratic allies. 

WATCH | What Biden’s first call with Trudeau means for Canada-U.S. relations:

Despite disagreement over Keystone XL, U.S. President Joe Biden’s phone call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signals a likely return to normal U.S.-Canada relations. 1:51

But the first weeks of the Biden administration have illustrated how cross-border irritants have not, and will not, disappear with a change in president. 

The new administration has cancelled a major pipeline project from Canada; promised a Buy American policy in its infrastructure purchases — though it’s still unclear how extensive that policy will be; and continued former president Donald Trump’s export restrictions on vaccines produced in the United States.

Conversely, Biden has de-emphasized relationships with non-democratic figures that had been cozier during the Trump era.

The White House has said Biden would not deal directly with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman because the crown prince is not officially the country’s ruler. It also said Biden planned to speak with allied leaders before figures such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, though he did eventually talk to Putin in the second week of his presidency.

Biden emphasizes ‘shared democratic values’

The new U.S. president emphasized that point in a speech addressing the Munich security conference on Friday.

Biden promised to enforce NATO’s mutual-defence pact and called this a key moment in the struggle for democracy.

He contrasted his view of democratic alliances to that of his predecessor, without explicitly naming Trump. 

“Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional. They’re not extractive,” Biden said.

“In too many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault…. We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. Between those who argue that … autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges. Historians will examine and write about this moment. It’s an inflection point.”

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