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Biden, Trudeau aim to move past Keystone pipeline disagreement in first bilateral meeting

Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Scherer
·4 min read

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Scherer

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. President JoeBiden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will try onTuesday to move past an early disagreement after Biden blockedthe Canadian-backed Keystone XL pipeline and look to resetrelations after the rocky years of Donald Trump.

In his first bilateral meeting with a foreign leader sincetaking office last month, Biden is expected to discuss withTrudeau a host of issues including climate change and China, asenior U.S. administration official told reporters.

Canada has often been a U.S. president's first foreign stop,but the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the sit-down between thetwo leaders and some of their top deputies into a virtualaffair.

The event is likely to result in a shared document outliningcross-government collaboration on a wide range of issues, thesenior U.S. administration official said.

It was not clear the meeting would result in any new deal onthose or other concerns, including Canada's access to vaccinesproduced in the United States or a shared standoff with Chinaover the detention of a Huawei executive.

"The most important thing here is a reinvigorated road mapfor cooperation between the United States and Canada, meaningthat we're going to talk regularly to one of our closest alliesto make sure that there's no kind of misunderstandings," theU.S. official said.

Biden is eager to address security threats from climatechange to the coronavirus pandemic as well as China, Iran,Russia and North Korea.

He irritated Ottawa early on by blocking the $8 billionKeystone XL pipeline project to pump oil sands crude fromAlberta to Nebraska, and proposing a "Buy American" programaimed at directing more U.S. spending toward domesticmanufacturers.

Trudeau is aiming to show he is now aligned with Washingtonon issues including COVID-19, climate change and foreign policy,a Canadian government source said.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of thebilateral meeting.

"We expect the president, during the meeting, to highlightthe strong and deep partnership between the United States andCanada as neighbors, friends and NATO allies," White Housespokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday.

An administration official said Biden would raise the topicof the countries' investment in the North Atlantic TreatyOrganization. Trump often disparaged allies for their shortfallin funding the mutual defense organization.

TURNING THE PAGE

Trudeau was the first world leader to congratulate Bidenwhen the Democrat was declared the winner of the November U.S.election, illustrating the degree to which Canada, one ofAmerica’s closest allies, is looking to turn the page on theTrump era.

The Republican former president, who often clashed withtraditional allies on trade, imposed tariffs on Canadianaluminum and steel. The two countries have one of the world’slargest bilateral trading relationships.

Tuesday's event is expected to start at 4 p.m. (2100 GMT),according to a Canadian official. A U.S. official said it wouldbegin with a 45-minute meeting between Biden, Vice PresidentKamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, nationalsecurity adviser Jake Sullivan and their Canadian counterparts.

An expanded meeting following that is expected to include abroader set of officials. Trudeau will be accompanied by hisfinance minister, Chrystia Freeland, and others. Biden andTrudeau will then address the public around 5:45 p.m. (2245GMT).

The U.S. official signaled little willingness to expandCanada's access to vaccines manufactured in the United States,saying Washington's focus is on vaccinating Americans.

The official said the White House expected Trudeau to raisethe issue of two Canadians detained by Beijing and charged withespionage after Canada's detention of Meng Wanzhou, chieffinancial officer of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, on a U.S. arrest warrant.

The official said the White House believed the Canadianswere unjustly detained and would work to secure their releasebut added it would not meddle in independent Department ofJustice matters. Meng remains under house arrest.

Trudeau also wants Canada and the United States tocollaborate more closely on manufacturing electric vehicles andsupplying critical minerals needed to make batteries for carsand other clean technologies, Trudeau told Reuters earlier thismonth.

Canada is also seeking exemptions to a U.S. effort to ensurefederal agencies buy American-produced goods. The U.S. movecould hurt Canada, given how tightly the two nations' economiesare integrated.(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Steve Schererin Ottawa; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing byScott Malone and Peter Cooney)