Trudeau, Biden pledge to work together on climate change and freeing detainees in China

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden emerged from their meeting today promising a new tone in Canada-U.S. relations to help the two countries tackle key issues such as climate change, the imprisonment of two Canadians in China and the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Virtual meeting was the first bilateral one-on-one for U.S. President Biden since taking office

U.S. President Joe Biden listens after holding a virtual meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden emerged from their meeting today promising a new tone in Canada-U.S. relations to help the two countries tackle key issues such as climate change, the imprisonment of two Canadians in China and the post-pandemic economic recovery.

"The president and I discussed the ambitious new partnership roadmap, based on shared values and priorities, that will guide our countries' work together over the coming years," Trudeau said.

"In the face of COVID-19, of climate change, of rising inequality, this is our moment to act. So we're not wasting any time in getting down to work. Job one remains keeping people safe and ending this pandemic," he added. 

Biden stressed the importance of tackling the pandemic but also spoke about working with Canada to influence other countries to step up their game on global challenges such as climate change.

"We also doubled down on our efforts to tackle climate change. It was really really encouraging," Biden said. "Now that the United States is back in the Paris agreement, we intend to demonstrate our leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions.

WATCH | Trudeau and Biden commit to collaboration on climate change, freeing detainees:

Trudeau, Biden commit to collaboration on climate, rebuilding the economy

1 year ago
Duration 2:36
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden held their first bilateral talks on Tuesday, committing to work together on climate change and building the economy back up after the pandemic.

"Canada and United States are going to work in lockstep to display the seriousness of our commitment at both home abroad," the president said.

A key part of that effort, Biden said, would be working to align the two countries' climate goals to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Biden also reaffirmed his administration's pledge to help Canada secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been imprisoned in China for the past two years. 

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in December 2018 shortly after Huawei telecom executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian officials while she was changing planes in Vancouver. Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

"Human beings are not bartering chips," Biden said. "We're going to work together to get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedoms."

Biden said the two countries also agreed to better coordinate their approach toward China to protect against threats to both countries' interests and values.

Building back better

Trudeau said the two leaders agreed to work together to help create "well-paying jobs and to help people who have been hardest hit get back on their feet." Biden said the two leaders would work to ensure that the post-pandemic recovery benefits all genders and people of colour.

"That's especially important because we know this pandemic is not affecting everyone the same way. Women are dropping out of the workforce at alarming rates ...  Black, Latino and natives are also, and other minorities are particularly hard hit," the president said. 

Biden said he and Trudeau spoke of working together on a range of other challenges, such as stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, encouraging multilateral institutions to promote transparency, strengthening supply chain security and to modernizing NORAD.

A "road map" released after the meeting said the leaders have directed their ministers of foreign affairs and national defence and, on the U.S. side, the secretaries of state and defence "to meet in a two+two ministerial format to further coordinate … joint contributions to collective security."

Those meetings will effectively be a series of government-to-government negotiations over the future of NORAD, the modernization of which could cost upwards of $11 billion; with 40 per cent of that bill being picked up by Canada. 

WATCH | Biden, Trudeau, Harris, Freeland deliver opening remarks at virtual meeting:

Biden, Trudeau, Harris, Freeland deliver opening remarks at virtual meeting

1 year ago
Duration 9:24
U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland share opening remarks ahead of their virtual meeting.

Fighting climate change

Before the meeting with Biden, Trudeau said it's good to once again be working with an administration that is serious about fighting climate change.

"Thank you again for stepping up in such a big way on tackling climate change," Trudeau said today before going into the virtual meeting.

"U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years, and I have to say, as we're preparing the joint rollout and communique from this one, it's nice the Americans are not pulling out all references to climate change and instead adding them in. So we're really excited to be working with you on that."

Trudeau said he has been looking forward to sitting down with Biden to discuss renewing the Canada-U.S. diplomatic relationship and getting both countries through the pandemic.

Biden, who spoke first during the brief pre-meeting appearance, said he was looking forward to working with Canada to tackle the pandemic and the economic recovery. The president also said he looked forward to discussing both nations' approaches to tackling climate change, refugees and migration, and standing up for democratic values at home and on the global stage.

"As leaders of the major democracies, we have a responsibility to prove that democracy can still deliver for our people. There are a lot of leaders around the world who are trying to make the argument that autocracy works better," Biden said. 

"Equity for everybody, ensuring the benefits of growth are shared broadly, that's how we are going to win the battle for the future."

WATCH | The full, closing remarks from Biden and Trudeau:

Biden, Trudeau share closing remarks after virtual meeting

1 year ago
Duration 10:52
U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau share closing remarks after their virtual meeting.

Biden told Trudeau that both countries need to get the pandemic under control as soon as possible, and that he was looking forward to seeing Trudeau in person in the future.

"The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada. That's why you were my first call as president, my first bilateral meeting and of course my vice president spent some time living up in Montréal for high school," Biden said, adding that the communication channels between Canada and the U.S. are "wide open."

Trudeau said the meeting will address ways the allies can work together to ensure a post-pandemic economic recovery.

"We're also going to dig into the recovery, how we move forward on creating good jobs for Canadians and Americans, strengthening the middle class, helping those working hard to join it. As we move forward, there's a lot to rebuild," Trudeau said.

Plan for renewed partnership

Tuesday evening the two leaders released their five-page road map for co-operation, saying in a joint statement a revitalized partnership is necessary to "overcome the daunting challenges of today and realize the full potential of the relationship into the future."

The document covers the same areas as the leaders' closing statements, but with much more specifics about where the two countries would co-operate. 

On battling the pandemic, it said Biden and Trudeau agreed "on the importance of a transparent and independent evaluation and analysis, free from interference, of the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak."

It also said the two countries would co-ordinate their approach to reopening the Canada-U.S. border "based on science and public health criteria."

On climate, both leaders have agreed to partner with Indigenous-led conservation efforts and to safeguard the Porcupine caribou herd calving grounds important to the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit peoples, culture and livelihood. 

On the issue of diversity and inclusion the road map says both leaders agreed to direct their law enforcement agencies to modernize their approaches to policing to address systemic racism and discrimination. 

They also agreed to promoting gender equality, arguing that "empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to eradicating poverty and building a more peaceful, more inclusive, and more prosperous world."

WATCH | U.S. congressman wants border open by July 4:

This U.S. congressman wants the Canada-U.S. border open by July 4

1 year ago
Duration 2:24
Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins told Power & Politics that, with vaccines on the horizon, he'd like to see U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau work toward opening the U.S.-Canada border by the Fourth of July.

With files from The Canadian Press


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