Leaders spoke publicly before and after the conference – Biden speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trudeau from his office on Parliament Hill. Media access in Ottawa and Washington was limited and they did not respond to any questions.
The first virtual bilateral meeting at the White House resulted in a roadmap for collaboration with a strong environmental focus.
There might not have been a handshake, but the tone was warm. “The United States has no closer friend, no closer, than Canada,” Biden said.
Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland shone under their masks.
Trudeau was on a first name basis with Biden from the start, a habit of his ascent to the Obama administration. At the end of the afternoon, Biden responded in kind.
There was no direct mention of former President Donald Trump, although Trudeau praised Biden for reaffirming US leadership on global climate policy. “As we prepare for the joint deployment and the communiqué of it, it’s good when the Americans don’t remove all references to climate change and, instead, add them,” he said, nodding at the Trump administration’s attempts to water international ally statements on the issue during his presidency.
At the start of the two-hour meeting, Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke warmly about entering high school in Montreal. Freeland said she read Harris’ autobiography and agreed that French was a difficult language to learn. Biden joked about his French skills, although he studied the language for five years as a youth.
Despite all the intricacies, the meeting did not resolve the entrenched issues between nations.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned reporters ahead of time that the United States was not going to announce a plan to share Covid-19 vaccines with its neighbor to the north, or exempt it of Biden’s Buy American Executive Order, enforced by the White House. being evaluated. Administration officials have promised that nothing will change Biden’s position on the Keystone XL pipeline either.
Yet leaders were careful to focus publicly on shared priorities and on issues of particular importance to each other.
In the joint “roadmap” for renewing Canada-U.S. Cooperation released after the meeting, Biden and Trudeau pledged to update their 2030 carbon targets under the Paris Agreement before the United States. organize their climate summit in April. They agreed to use the recommendations of science and public health when considering future easing of restrictions on the Canada-U.S. Border, and they pledged to work with multinational institutions to support global distribution. of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Biden reaffirmed Washington’s support for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians whom China has detained for more than two years in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a Huawei executive at the behest of the United States. Trudeau acknowledged the crippling winter storm in Texas, noting that Saskatchewan’s SaskPower utility exported electricity to the state.
They ended the day virtually side by side, with a leader visible on a monitor beside the lectern the other was speaking to.
“We are facing difficult times, there is no doubt about it,” Trudeau said. “But we don’t face them alone.”