In-person visits by foreign officials are still prohibited as the novel coronavirus continues to rage. So, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will beam down Ottawa’s West Wing, his bearded face positioned next to Biden on a big screen as each man does his best to replicate the traditional choreography of a bilateral meeting of the White House.
This is not necessarily how Biden, who emphasizes developing personal relationships with his foreign counterparts, might prefer to conduct his first bilateral meeting. But with the Canada-U.S. Border still closed and the administration’s intention to model its own pandemic guidelines, the virtual meeting will have to do the trick.
The two leaders are expected to produce a “road map” to re-energize collaboration between their countries that will guide areas such as climate change and the economy, administration officials said, calling the result superior to the joint statement. static or the usual release. result of a bilateral meeting.
Thorny cross-border trade issues are expected to arise. And leaders are likely to discuss China, including the detention of two Canadians who were jailed there after Canada arrested a Huawei executive.
The notion of remote meeting is hardly new to most Americans, who are about to enter a second year of video calling and virtual dating. But former President Donald Trump had mostly ignored social distancing guidelines and continued to welcome foreign leaders amid the pandemic.
Trudeau will be the first “virtual bilateral meeting” called at the White House.
“They’re not going to be in person, but the two leaders get along really well, have a good rapport, so we wanted to create a smaller session so the two could really have that experience they would normally have in the Oval. . ”Said a senior administration official on Monday, planning a meeting that should focus on the economic ties of the two countries, fight against the pandemic and fight against climate change.
Senior U.S. administration officials have said they want to make the Biden-Trudeau event something more than just a high-level Zoom, preserving some of the optics and majesty of a visit official of a foreign ruler, even if the ruler himself is seated in another. country nearly 600 miles away.
“We’re really trying to innovate in the virtual space to make sure that we make that personal connection that the president enjoys with many leaders, but then, of course, creating that environment for them to really roll up their sleeves. and talk about these issues in detail as the president likes to do, ”the official said.
Biden and Trudeau have spoken on the phone before and have known each other for years. One of Biden’s last trips as vice president was to attend a state dinner held in his honor in Ottawa; during his toast, Biden recounted the call he received from Trudeau’s father, Pierre – then Prime Minister himself – when his first wife and daughter died in a car crash.
The relationship between the two countries is not without irritants. Trudeau has expressed disappointment that Biden is canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Alberta across the Canada-U.S. Border. Officials said ahead of the meeting that the decision was final.
Trudeau is expected to pressure Biden to make more Covid-19 vaccines available to Canadians. Biden has not rescinded a Trump-era executive order that blocks vaccine exports, meaning Canada relies on doses of Pfizer produced in Europe rather than those produced in neighboring Michigan. Officials said Biden was focused on “making sure every American is vaccinated” but would like to discuss ways to work together to fight the virus.
Canada also hopes Biden will make an exception for its “Buy American” provision which seeks to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are spent on domestic businesses rather than overseas.
But overall, Biden and Trudeau are riding the same page, at least compared to Trump, who has adopted a combative trade agenda and has personally insulted Trudeau on several occasions.
His only trip to Canada, for a G7 summit in the woods of northern Quebec, ended abruptly and bitterly. As he flew on Air Force One, he called Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” on Twitter and rescinded his signing of the meeting’s closing document.
That probably won’t happen on Tuesday.
“The quasi-priority of the Biden administration is where we have a values alignment and a space for collaboration with Canada,” an official said ahead of the talks. “We share one of the strongest and deepest friendships between two countries in the world.”