U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden used pre-dinner remarks at an event held in his honour in Ottawa to tout cross-border ties and urge the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau be a leader on international issues.

Biden is in Ottawa for a two-day visit. He arrived shortly before 8:00 p.m. Thursday, beginning his trip with a dinner hosted in the recently refurbished Sir John A. Macdonald Building on Wellington Street, opposite Parliament Hill.

"There are periods where the number of genuine leaders on continents are in short supply, and when they're in heavy supply," Biden said. "I've never seen Europe as engaged in as much self-doubt as they are now."

Biden said the world would make enormous progress — but only if leaders such Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped up.

"The progress is going to be made but it's going to take men like you Mr. Prime Minister, who understand it has to fit within the context of a liberal economic order, a liberal international order, where there's basic rules of the road."

The vice-president spoke about Canadian and U.S. joint commitments in Syria and Iraq, and of how the two nations are working together to bolster mutual allies in Eastern Europe, "particularly in Latvia," as examples of the deep friendship between the two nations.

Describing the unease in Europe over Brexit and the groundswell of isolationism and anti-trade rhetoric that surfaced during the U.S. election as a difficult period in history, Biden said "vive le Canada, because we need you very, very badly." 

The U.S. vice-president also honed in on environmental issues, adding that one of the reasons for his visit was to talk about environmental policy, saying combating climate change is "the most consequential issue of our generation."

Looking back 

Biden also took time during his remarks to pay tribute to Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Slowing the tempo of his speech, Biden recounted a time decades ago when the elder Trudeau reached out to a Biden after his wife and daughter were killed in a tragic car accident.

The outgoing vice-president also praised the current prime minister, saying that the mark of a successful father is to have children that excel past their parents noting the elder Trudeau was a very successful father. 

Joe Biden shares memories of Pierre Trudeau2:05

On Friday, Biden will attend a welcoming ceremony on Parliament Hill where he will sign the Senate and House of Commons guest books. After that, he'll have a private meeting with the prime minister before attending a round table discussion with Trudeau, the premiers and Indigenous leaders who will be in Ottawa for a First Ministers Meeting.

U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman said in a statement that Biden and Trudeau will "discuss the strong partnership between the United States and Canada."

Trudeau said in a statement that he was looking forward to discussing the friendship between the two countries in which $2.4 billion in goods and services move across the border each day.

With files from The Canadian Press