Biden speaks with Canada's Trudeau in first foreign leader call as US President

Ottawa (AFP) –


In his first call to a foreign leader as US President, Joe Biden spoke with Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau Friday on a number of topics and made plans to continue the conversation next month, Ottawa and Washington said in separate statements.

During the conversation, which Canada said lasted approximately 30 minutes, the two leaders covered everything from the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the closure of the US-Canada border since March, to environmental protections.

In a similar call Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador confirmed on Twitter that he and Biden had discussed topics ranging from Covid-19 to migration.

Trudeau and Biden made plans to talk again soon, with Canada leaving open the possibility of a virtual or even in-person discussion, while the White House said only that "the two leaders agreed to speak again in a month."

The discussions, the Canadian statement said, would "advance the important work of renewing the deep and enduring friendship between Canada and the United States."

Neither Washington nor Ottawa confirmed an exact date.

According to both countries, the leaders discussed Biden's decision to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project fiercely opposed by environmentalists but backed by Ottawa.

Upon taking office on Wednesday, Biden rescinded a permit for the pipeline via executive order, blocking completion of the project started almost a decade ago.

Trudeau had previously said it was "an important project for us," citing continental energy security and jobs, and reacted with disappointment Friday over its cancellation.

"The prime minister raised Canada's disappointment with the United States' decision on the Keystone XL pipeline," Trudeau's office said in its statement, but added that the prime minister emphasized the "important economic and energy security benefits of our bilateral energy relationship."

The 1,210-mile (1,947-kilometer) pipeline, starting in 2023, was to transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the Alberta oil sands to Nebraska and then through an existing system to refineries in coastal Texas.

- 'Friendly and respectful' -

Mexico's Lopez Obrador wrote on Twitter that his discussion with Biden had been "friendly and respectful."

"We talked on issues related to migration, #COVID19 and cooperation on development and well-being. Everything indicates that relations will be good for the well-being of our peoples and nations," Lopez Obrador said.

The three countries form the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and binds nearly half a billion consumers in a single market that comprises about 27 percent of global GDP, in a region where trade hit $1.2 trillion in 2019 -- though that was before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Trudeau said prior to the call that the new administration represents an opportunity to turn the page on a challenging relationship with the US under Trump, who once labelled Trudeau as "dishonest" and "meek."

"We are truly beginning a new era of friendship," he said.

The White House said the pair's Friday phone call highlighted "the strategic importance of the US-Canada relationship" while "reinvigorating our bilateral cooperation on an ambitious and wide-ranging agenda."