Biden and Trudeau agree to cooperate on Covid and climate change

Canada’s Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden plan to meet next month, the prime minister’s office said, following a call between the two leaders in which they agreed to join forces to combat coronavirus in North America.

The White House said in a statement that the two leaders highlighted the “strategic importance of the US-Canada relationship” and discussed cooperation on a wide-ranging agenda including combating the Covid-19 pandemic and addressing the climate crisis.

It said Biden and Trudeau agreed to speak again in a month, and did not mention plans for a meeting.

Trudeau, who has been keen to embrace the new president and turn the page on the often tumultuous Donald Trump years, was the first foreign leader to speak with Biden since Wednesday’s inauguration.

“They discussed collaboration on vaccines and acknowledged that the two countries’ efforts are strengthened by existing exchanges of medical personnel and the flow of critical medical supplies,” according to a Canadian readout of the call.

The two also agreed to expand cooperation on continental defence and in the Arctic, and said their top defence and foreign affairs officials would meet at the earliest opportunity.

Trudeau earlier on Friday hailed Biden’s arrival as a “new era” for bilateral ties but the relationship began with an early disagreement after the American president scrapped the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the United States on his first day in office.

The White House statement said Biden acknowledged “Trudeau’s disappointment regarding the decision to rescind the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and reaffirmed his commitment to maintain an active bilateral dialogue and to further deepen cooperation with Canada.“

Pipeline builder TC Energy Corp said it would cost more than 1,000 construction jobs in coming weeks.

Canada’s readout also noted that Trudeau had brought up “the importance of the softwood lumber industry, and urged the removal of duties.”

The long-running dispute saw the Trump administration impose tariffs against what it saw as unfair subsidies for Canadian exporters of softwood lumber, which is used in home construction.