Justin Trudeau arrives in Washington for official visit
Prime minister begins 3-day visit that includes state dinner, bilateral meetings and social events
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's long-anticipated visit to the U.S. capital is finally underway.
Trudeau's plane touched down Wednesday at Andrews Air Force Base to begin the three-day visit, which is being hosted by President Barack Obama, the State Department, American University and a group of think tanks.
A military band and guard of honour, along with a colour guard carrying both national flags, greeted the RCAF Airbus as it taxied to a stop.
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David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the United States, greeted Trudeau as he stepped off the plane with his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and their three children, Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien.
The strains of O Canada and the Star Spangled Banner played as the family paused by the foot of the aircraft staircase.
The focal point of the visit comes Thursday when the Trudeaus attend a glitzy, star-studded state dinner at the White House — the first for a Canadian prime minister in nearly two decades.
White House officials offered a tour of the East Room where the dinner will be held; it's the same room where Trudeau's father was serenaded by Robert Goulet at the after-party during his first state dinner in 1969. The meal will be sprinkled with Canadiana — including a duck-poutine canape and Canadian whisky drizzled over lamb.
Before leaving Ottawa, Trudeau told the House of Commons that warm relations with Washington are key to Canadian prosperity.
"Few relationships matter to Canada as much as a good relationship with the United States of America, for jobs, for economic growth, for trade purposes, for building the kinds of opportunities for Canadians right across the country that are truly needed," he said.
"For 10 years, those relationships have been strained — and now we're pleased to be able to re-engage on a broad range of important files to be able to build the kinds of opportunities for all Canadians that we know people need."
Lapping up attention
The visit has prompted a rare degree of American media attention. A more gushing example was in the tabloid Politico headline, "Justin Fever Hits Washington," followed by a story where a senior White House official admitted having a bit of a crush on the young leader from the north.
The official is quoted declaring Trudeau her "new political crush," saying, "Seriously, with his looks, heart, and mind, he's dreamy."
The celebrity-style news coverage, includes a flattering profile on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes and comparisons to John F. Kennedy.
Prime ministerial visits rarely raise a ripple in the U.S. capital but the arrival of this refugee-hugging, self-declared feminist subject of fawning profiles and a Vogue magazine spread is an exception to the rule.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, also noted the novelty of Americans paying attention to a Canadian politician.
"For a long time Canadians were a bit obsessed with President Obama," she told a forum hosted by Politico late Tuesday. "This is just desserts."
But there are limits to U.S. fascination. While some Canadian news networks ran live footage of Trudeau's plane on the tarmac, none of the U.S. networks did.
Indeed, whether on the record or off, there are clear indications that Trudeau's arrival heralds a new era with the current — albeit outgoing — U.S. administration.
"I think there is a developing special relationship between this president and prime minister," said White House senior official Mark Feierstein.
Denison Offut said there's also fertile ground for co-operation on substantive files.
"The leaders are progressive, forward-looking, and have very similar common values and agendas," said Offut, director for North American affairs.
"Having met ... last December there was a natural synergy there. Especially with the followup at the Paris environmental talks."
Sources say there'll be multiple announcements after the leaders meet Thursday.
One could revolutionize the way Canadians and Americans enter each other's country by allowing pre-border customs screening — in train stations, bus stations, on ships and off highways the same way it already occurs in several Canadian airports, with the goal being smoother travel through choke points.
The climate agreements will include components on the Arctic and commitments to reduce methane-gas emissions, and help developing countries cope with the effects with environmental change. Some third-party groups consulted on the trip also expect announcements on clean technology.
He'll conclude the three-day trip Friday when he lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, takes part in a question-and-answer session with university students and speaks to a think-tank audience.
Thursday is the main meeting with President Barack Obama in the morning, followed by the state dinner in the evening.
How to follow Trudeau's Washington visit
CBCnews.ca and CBC News Network will have live coverage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's White House visit on Thursday morning and the state dinner in the evening. You can also follow CBC's live blog.
The National with Peter Mansbridge (10 p.m. on CBC Television; 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network) and Power & Politics with Rosemary Barton (5 p.m to 7 p.m. ET on CBC News Network) are broadcasting live from Washington with news and feature interviews. And The House with Chris Hall wraps up the week in Washington Saturday at 9 a.m. on CBC Radio One.