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article imageBiden speaks with Canada's Trudeau in first foreign leader call

By AFP     Jan 23, 2021 in Politics

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.

US President Joe Biden  pictured January 22  2021  has rescinded a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeli...
US President Joe Biden, pictured January 22, 2021, has rescinded a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline via executive order
Nicholas Kamm, AFP

Upon taking office on Wednesday, Biden rescinded a permit for the pipeline via executive order, blocking completion of the project started almost a decade ago.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

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador  pictured in December 2020  confirmed on Twitter that ...
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, pictured in December 2020, confirmed on Twitter that he spoke with new US President Joe Biden on Friday
-, Mexican Presidency/AFP/File

"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.

On Saturday, the Mexican president said Biden had also informed him of plans to launch a $4 billion US aid program for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, three struggling countries that account for many of those seeking to migrate to the United States, most often by way of Mexico.

The White House declined to elaborate.

In 2019, angered by the influx of immigrants from Central America, then president Donald Trump froze an aid program worth some $450 million that was aimed at fighting crime and improving conditions in the three countries.

- 'A new era' -

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), binds nearly half a billion consumers in a single market.

It 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 labeled 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."

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