Washington, United States, Feb 23 – President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lay out a “roadmap” for rebuilding US-Canada relations Tuesday during their first bilateral meeting, a senior official said, although the scrapped Keystone pipeline could present a hurdle.
Following the turbulence of Donald Trump’s presidency, Biden would have hoped to use his well-honed skills of personal connection while meeting face-to-face with the leader of the key ally to the north.
However, the meeting will occur virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the neighboring states to build on their common values from afar instead of in person, a senior US administration official told reporters on the eve of Biden’s first bilateral event as president.
“I think the biggest deliverable from the trip, or from the meeting, is going to be essentially… a roadmap to reinvigorate US-Canada collaboration,” the official said Monday.
Announcements on “next steps” will be made in multiple areas such as diplomacy, transportation or infrastructure, and battling Covid-19, the official said.
Biden and Trudeau will address several mutual priorities, including tackling climate change, revving up the North American economy, the Arctic, and threats to democracy in Myanmar and Venezuela.
“By being on the same line on several subjects, like climate change or economic revival, we can do more together,” Trudeau’s office said, offering similar broad brush strokes.
But the sides will also wade into the thorny issue of China’s “unfair economic practices,” its human rights record and Beijing’s continued detention of two Canadian nationals, according to the senior US official.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China in 2018 in what was seen as likely retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou that year on a US warrant.
“Certainly we expect the prime minister to raise it, and the president is ready to discuss it,” the official said.
The official would not be drawn on how US-Canada ties might have been damaged during the four-year Trump administration, opting instead to highlight the various “shared interests” between the two countries.
One sticking point that is likely to come up: Biden’s decision to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project fiercely opposed by environmentalists but backed by Ottawa.
Biden rescinded the permit by executive order on his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign commitment, and “the decision will not be reconsidered,” the official said.
The summit begins with a 45-minute closed-door bilateral meeting with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, along with their Canadian counterparts.
It will then be expanded to a broader bilateral discussion.