Trudeau and Biden pledge to fight COVID-19, climate change and rebuild economy
OTTAWA -- In their first face-to-face virtual bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden have agreed to prioritize the fight against COVID-19, economic recovery following pandemic strain, and the global climate threat.
"In the face of COVID-19, of climate change, of rising inequality, this is our moment to act," said Trudeau following the meeting on Tuesday. "Job one remains keeping people safe and ending this pandemic."
Biden also pledged to help free Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from a Chinese prison. The two men have been detained in China since Dec. 10, 2018, following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S. in Vancouver days prior.
"Human beings are not bartering chips," he said. "We're going to work together until we get their safe return," Biden said after the meeting, although he did not offer specifics on how the U.S. would help beyond reaffirming his commitment to stand out against human rights abuse.
COVID-19 AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY
Biden underlined the need for enhanced support to the World Health Organization to prevent future pandemics, a complete shift in approach from the former White House administration, which cut funding to the body.
"Both our nations getting COVID-19 under control at home and around the world is an immediate priority," he said.
Trudeau echoed this sentiment and reiterated the need to support the international bodies leading the fight.
Both leaders agreed economic relief must target those the pandemic has hit hardest.
Biden said the two countries would use resources available in the existing trade pact to "support women and minority-owned businesses."
While there was no direct mention of the president’s "Buy American" executive order and how it might impact Canada, in the post-meeting statements Trudeau did reinforce the shared reliance of both economies.
"Just take the energy industry -- Canadian energy workers power homes on both sides of the border. It goes to show that we’re all better off for this partnership. Today, the president and I discussed leveraging supply chains and support for businesses to create good, well-paying jobs," Trudeau said.
The prime minister kicked off the meeting by making a point of welcoming back American leadership on files like climate change, saying "U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years."
Biden has recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement, after former President Donald Trump announced it would withdraw from the international pact four years ago.
"We intend to demonstrate our leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions. Canada and the United States are going to work in lockstep to display the seriousness of our commitment at both home and abroad," said Biden.
Their promise to meet Paris targets and cut greenhouse-gas emissions more intentionally is captured under what's being deemed a new "High Level Climate Ministerial."
STRENGTHENING 'HISTORIC TIES'
In a summary of the meeting issued Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister’s Office said the discussion also touched on: systemic racism, discrimination, the digital economy, defence and security issues – including modernizing NORAD, NATO missions, cybersecurity threats, and firearms – and China more broadly.
"Today’s meeting with President Biden further strengthens our two countries’ strong and historic ties. I look forward to continue working together to end COVID-19, and build back better to grow the middle class and create good jobs," the statement from Trudeau reads.
The virtual meeting lasted about two hours, with top cabinet officials from both countries participating, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
During her opening statement Freeland restated her congratulations to her counterpart Harris for her historic win as the first female vice-president.
"Your election has been such an inspiration for women and girls across Canada," Freeland said, adding that after the 2020 U.S. election both countries have a responsibility “to show that democracy can deliver."
With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello