Obama, Kerry praise PM for policies; take jabs on hockey, Bieber
U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Washington Thursday, offering praise for his policies on climate change and refugees, while throwing jabs over hockey and Justin Bieber.
The president also announced he will address the Canadian Parliament in June.
Obama’s visit to Ottawa will be part of a so-called “Three Amigos” summit meeting between Trudeau, Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It will be the first time the summit is back on Canadian soil in nearly a decade.
Obama said he felt an affinity to Trudeau because the new prime minister had “campaigned on a message of hope and of change,” is committed to inclusivity, equality, climate change and closer trade relations.
“From my perspective: What’s not to like?” Obama said.
The two met for more than 90 minutes of talks in the Oval Office Thursday morning, discussing a range of issues including climate change and trade.
“I believe we have laid the foundation for even greater cooperation for our countries for years to come,” Obama told a joint news conference in the Rose Garden after the meeting.
“And I would like to think it is only the beginning.”
Trudeau responded that he looks forward to working together on climate change and to building “a clean growth economy,” noting that he and Obama had already agreed to reduce methane emissions nearly by half.
“Overall, the president and I agree on many things, including of paramount importance, the directions we want to take our countries in to ensure a clean and prosperous future,” Trudeau said.
“We’ve made tremendous progress on many issues. Unfortunately, I will leave town with my beloved Expos still in Washington,” he joked, referring to the baseball team now known as the Nationals.
Trudeau’s official visit to Washington is the first for a Canadian prime minister in nearly 20 years.
"It's about time, eh?" Obama quipped as he welcomed Trudeau to the White House ahead of their Oval Office meeting Thursday morning.
Addressing Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau on the White House front lawn, Obama said Canada and the United States are lucky to be both neighbours and allies.
"It's long been said that you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your neighbours," Obama told the invited crowd of Canadians and Americans.
"Well, by virtue of geography, the United States and Canada are blessed to be neighbours and by choice we are steadfast allies and the closest of friends."
He noted that Trudeau and his first few months in office "have brought a new energy and dynamism" to the relationship between the nations -- a reference, perhaps, to Obama's often-strained with Trudeau's predecessor, Stephen Harper. Obama and Harper disagreed on several key issues, most notably the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Obama's administration rejected last year.
"We have a common outlook on the world, and I have to say I have never seen so many Americans excited about the visit of a Canadian prime minister," Obama said of Trudeau.
Obama also made a few friendly cracks with the prime minister, hitting on two of Canada's favourite topics: hockey and beer.
"Now, I don't want to gloss over the very real differences between Americans and Canadians," Obama said.
"There are some things we will probably never agree on: whose beer is better; who's better at hockey... Where's the Stanley Cup right now? I'm sorry, is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks?" he said with a smile.
Trudeau made a jab of his own when it was his turn to speak, noting "there is a high demand for Canadian goods down here" – exports, he said, such as Canadian Blackhawks players, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp.
The meeting between the two leaders was followed by a luncheon, hosted by Kerry.
Guests included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman, and Canada’s new U.S. envoy David MacNaughton.
Kerry also elicited a few friendly chuckles with his introduction of Trudeau.
Kerry said he and Trudeau have a lot in common. “He is young, hip, good-looking, popular … and a hockey fan,” said the Secretary of State. “I too am a big hockey fan.”
Kerry joked that the prime minister’s favourability ranks up there withe Wayne Gretzky’s and Rachel McAdams’, although perhaps “ahead of Justin Bieber.”
Kerry also pointed out that he had never seen so many cameras for a visiting head of government, adding “I can’t think of any other reason why Google hits for the search term ‘moving to Canada’ have reached an all-time high.”
On a more serious note, Kerry complimented Trudeau for his “leadership” on the issues of “refugees, on climate change, on advancing the status of women and girls, and much more.”
Trudeau is meeting Democratic and Republican lawmakers this afternoon. His day will end with the first White House State dinner for a Canadian leader since 1997.