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Trudeau to hold first meeting with new U.S. President Biden virtually on Tuesday

Last Updated Feb 20, 2021 at 6:37 pm EDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former vice-president Joe Biden walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

The first face-to-face meeting between Canada’s Prime Minister and the newly minted U.S. president will take place early next week, the two countries announced on Saturday amid questions about how the long-time allies plan to address simmering tensions that have already emerged despite the new regime in the White House.

Both Trudeau’s office and the press secretary for President Joe Biden issued statements saying the two leaders plan to convene virtually on Tuesday. The White House statement said ministers from both cabinets would also be meeting that day.

The session is being billed as the first bilateral meeting between the two countries since Biden took office on Jan. 20, though the leaders held a lengthy phone call days after the new President was sworn in.

Canada and the U.S. have already stumbled across some contentious issues during Biden’s brief tenure, but both cited a long history of mutual support and co-operation when announcing Tuesday’s meeting.

“Canada and the United States share one of the strongest and deepest friendships between any two countries in the world,” Trudeau said in the statement. “It is built on common values, strong ties between our people, and a shared geography. I look forward to my meeting with President Biden, where we will work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic and support people in both our countries.”

Both the White House and the prime minister’s office said the two leaders plan to discuss the close economic ties between their countries.

Those ties have been strained by strict Buy American provisions introduced by the president, who said there will be few exemptions for Canada.

In late January, Trudeau said that his government was able to defend Canadian interests during the “unpredictable and extremely protectionist” administration of Donald Trump and he doesn’t expect that to change now that Biden is in office.

“President Biden has a lot of similar priorities to this government’s, to Canadians’ … and these are things that we’re going to be able to work on closely with our nearest ally and closest friend,” Trudeau said on Jan. 26.

The cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project on Biden’s first day in office has also been a recent sticking point in Canada-U.S. relations.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny has called on the federal government to consider “proportionate economic consequences” for the cancellation.

Trudeau has said he expressed his disappointment with the decision in his first call with Biden, but later highlighted what he described as the alignment between the two administrations.

Biden is also facing pressure to support a call from the governor of Michigan to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that travels between the two countries.

The “bilateral energy relationship” will be a topic of conversation at the upcoming meeting, according to the statement from Trudeau’s office.

Earlier this month, the federal Conservatives called for the creation of a new parliamentary committee to study Canada-U.S. relations. They say more needs to be done to shield Canadian workers from protectionist policies south of the border.