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More Policy as Biden, Trudeau Meet     02/24 06:15

   President Joe Biden's first bilateral meeting with Canada's Justin Trudeau 
since taking office was high on policy, low on pomp and featured a very large 
swipe at Biden's predecessor as the coronavirus forced the two leaders to 
convene virtually Tuesday rather than gathering with customary Oval Office 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden's first bilateral meeting with 
Canada's Justin Trudeau since taking office was high on policy, low on pomp and 
featured a very large swipe at Biden's predecessor as the coronavirus forced 
the two leaders to convene virtually Tuesday rather than gathering with 
customary Oval Office fanfare.

   The two leaders --- Biden in the Roosevelt Room at the White House and 
Trudeau in the prime minister's office in Ottawa --- delivered friendly opening 
remarks in front of the media, with flags from both countries on display at 
both ends of the long-distance conversation.

   "The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend, than Canada," 
Biden said.

   Trudeau, in turn, commended Biden for quickly rejoining the Paris climate 
accord, a worldwide pact to curb climate emissions that President Donald Trump 
walked away from early in his term. The prime minister, who had a frosty 
relationship with Trump at times, worked in a jab at Trump as he praised Biden.

   "U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years," Trudeau said. 
"And I have to say as we were preparing the joint rollout of the communiqu on 
this, it's nice when the Americans are not pulling out all the references to 
climate change and instead adding them in."

   In remarks at the end of the talks, Biden for the first time publicly spoke 
out against the detention of two Canadian citizens imprisoned in China in 
apparent retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top Huawei executive.

   "Human beings are not bartering chips," Biden said of the two Canadians. "We 
are going to work together until their safe return."

   Trudeau, for his part, publicly thanked Biden for his support in seeking the 
men's release.

   Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained in China following the 
arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada after the U.S. 
requested her extradition to face charges that the Chinese telecom company 
executive committed wire and bank fraud and violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. 
She denies the allegations.

   China lashed out at Canada last week for joining the U.S. and 56 other 
countries in endorsing a declaration denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary 
detention of foreign citizens for political purposes.

   Trudeau's broadside of Trump was a notable coda to a relationship marked by 
some notably undiplomatic moments.

   The Republican president, in a fit of pique in 2018, took to Twitter to 
label the prime minister "dishonest and weak" after Trudeau voiced objections 
to Trump raising tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the 
European Union.

   Trump blew up again at Trudeau in 2019, calling him "two-faced" after the 
Canadian leader was caught on video mocking the American president as he spoke 
to other world leaders on the sidelines of a NATO conference at Buckingham 

   In pre-pandemic times, the Biden-Trudeau meeting would have been held with 
far more fanfare: Biden welcoming the Canadian prime minister with great 
ceremony upon his arrival, an Oval Office talk between the two leaders, a joint 
news conference and perhaps a luncheon.

   But with both leaders stressing caution to their citizens, Biden and Trudeau 
set aside the typical protocol in favor of talks by video conference. U.S. 
presidents traditionally invite the Canadian prime minister for their first 
meeting with a world leader.

   While cable stations in the United States stuck with breaking news about pro 
golfer Tiger Woods' serious car crash, Canada's CTV and CBC carried the 
leaders' opening remarks live.

   The two leaders agreed to a "road map" outlining how the neighboring 
countries will work together to fight COVID-19, curb climate emissions and 
pursue other shared priorities.

   Trudeau again raised with Biden the idea of allowing Canada, which is 
struggling to vaccinate its population, to buy vaccines produced in the U.S, 
according to a senior Canadian government official who spoke on the condition 
of anonymity to detail the private talks. Canada currently is getting vaccines 
shipped from Pfizer and Moderna plants in Europe.

   Trudeau brought up the issue when the two leaders spoke by phone last month, 
Biden's first call to a foreign leader as president. But Biden's "first 
priority" remains "ensuring every American is vaccinated," White House press 
secretary Jen Psaki said ahead of the meeting. Biden's team offered the same 
message to Trudeau privately.

   The prime minister's office said in a statement that Biden and Trudeau 
discussed how the pandemic "will not end until everyone, everywhere has access 
to a vaccine" and "the importance of avoiding measures that may constrain the 
critical trade and supply-chain security between our countries."

   Neither leader in public remarks mentioned differences over Biden's "Buy 
American" executive order or his decision to halt construction of the Keystone 
XL pipeline, a transcontinental project that was to bring oil from the tar 
sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South 
Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The Keystone decision came up in the 
talks with Biden standing by his decision to stop the project as he promised to 
do during his campaign, according to the Canadian government official.

   Trudeau, who supported the project, expressed his disappointment with 
Biden's decision when the two spoke by phone last month.

   The Canadian side also raised concerns about the "Buy American" executive 
order that Biden signed during his first week in office. It is designed to 
encourage the federal government to spend more of the roughly $600 billion 
earmarked for procurement to boost U.S. factories and hiring.

   Biden previously said that as part of the push he was creating a "Made in 
America" office to evaluate contracts and make sure waivers are used only in 
"very limited circumstances." The issue is crucial to Canada since the U.S. 
accounts for about 75% of its exports.

   White House officials say no decisions have been made on waivers.

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