Starting his first full work week as president-elect on Monday, Joe Biden received his first phone call from a world leader -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who according to his office raised a series of key cross-border issues with his incoming U.S. counterpart.
According to a message shared across the prime minister’s social media channels on Monday afternoon, Trudeau spoke with his incoming U.S. counterpart about the “challenges and opportunities facing our two countries," including COVID-19 and climate change, as well as about China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
“We talked about those specific challenges today, as well as trade, energy, NATO, anti-Black racism, and China’s arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” the post read.
In a readout from the call released later on Monday, according to the PMO the pair agreed to work together on the pandemic, to support economic regrowth, and to work closely on global security with NATO, and at the G7.
In the PMO statement about the call, the pair “agreed to stay in close contact.”
The election of Biden has prompted some to wonder how both Canada and U.S. relations with China may be different, and Trudeau took the opportunity to raise the case of the two Michaels on Monday’s call.
Asked whether he thought Biden would put greater pressure on Beijing or possibly look to take an alternate approach to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case during a Monday morning press conference, Trudeau voiced confidence about the role the Democratic administration will play.
“We've worked with allies around the world to put pressure on China around the arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens. Their approach around coercive diplomacy is ineffective and extremely preoccupying for democratic nations around the world and we have all expressed that very clearly,” Trudeau said.
“I am extremely confident that the incoming American administration will continue to be a good partner to Canada and other nations around the world as we look to impress upon China that the approach they're taking is simply not working, while at the same time, impressing upon them the importance of returning the two Canadians who've been arbitrarily detained for over 700 days now,” he continued.
Canada’s dealings with China have become intertwined on a few major files with significant political repercussions over the course of U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidency, particularly after Canada acted on the U.S. extradition request to arrest Meng.
While Biden campaigned on repairing relationships with foreign nations, he often emphasized China’s authoritarianism during the Democratic primary debates. Foreign policy experts have previously told CTVNews.ca that Biden may be more open to forging a new, less combative approach to the tense standoff over the detainees.
“I think it’s only good that can come,” said CTV News political commentator Tom Mulcair on CTV News Channel Monday morning about what Biden’s win means for Canada.
“Our ability to work with China is going to change. We’re not going to feel the pressure from Donald Trump,” Mulcair said.
FATE OF KEYSTONE XL?
While the pair has similar climate goals, one of the biggest points of difference in policy facing the two countries is on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline and that came up on the call.
The multi-billion dollar project would transfer more than 800,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska, but Biden vowed early on that he would scrap the pipeline, despite Canada’s backing and Alberta already investing billions into the project.
Asked what Canada is going to do to fight the pipeline project from being killed, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said over the weekend that that the federal government will make its case as a reliable energy supplier.
The fate of the project has been top of mind for some in Canada’s energy industry, and according to the PMO, it was on Trudeau’s mind too, but details of what each side had to say during the call were not included. The readout only noted that Biden and Trudeau were looking forward to “engaging” on the issue of “energy cooperation,” and other resource issues like softwood lumber.