U.S. President Barack Obama has extolled the progressive agenda of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cast him as an heir to his own liberal legacy on climate change and social justice.
“He campaigned on a message of hope and change. His positive and optimistic vision is inspiring young people at home,” Mr. Obama said as the two men emerged Thursday from wide-ranging talks in the Oval Office.
Mr. Trudeau’s official visit to Washington, capped off by a glitzy state dinner, marks the continuation of a bond the leaders have quickly developed at two international summits.
At a news conference in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama sketched out a broad continental climate-change strategy they had discussed and signed off on cross-border travel and trade reforms, including a joint approach to redressing faulty no-fly lists. However, they did not reach an agreement in the softwood lumber dispute.
But what stood out was the personal bond between the President and younger, rookie Prime Minister.
“About Mr. Obama, I have learned a lot from him,” Mr. Trudeau said. “For me to be able to count on a friend who has lived through many of the things I’m about to encounter on the political stage, the international stage, it’s a great comfort to me”
There could not have been a starker contrast than the cool and distant relations Mr. Obama had with former prime minister Stephen Harper, an ideological conservative who paid little heed to climate change and annoyed the President with aggressive lobbying on the now rejected Keystone pipeline.
In a further act of the friendship between the two leaders, Mr. Trudeau invited the President to address a joint session of Parliament when Canada plays host to the North American Leaders’ Summit in June.
“I look forward to the opportunity to speak directly to the Canadian people about the extraordinary future that we can build together,” Mr. Obama said.
As evidence of the new partnership, Mr. Trudeau pointed to an agreement to limit various greenhouse gas emissions, align energy efficiency standards and foster solar, wind power and other green technologies.
“We’ll take ambitious action to reduce methane emissions nearly by half from the oil and gas sector, reduce use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons and implement aligned greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles,” Mr. Trudeau said.
They vowed to protect sensitive marine areas in the Arctic and apply rigorous reviews of oil and gas drilling and commercial fishing in the high North and to discourage the burning of diesel fuel that causes black carbon.
Regarding the border, Mr. Trudeau said Canada and the United States will implement an entry/exit system to log travellers and jointly share that information with law-enforcement agencies. U.S. Customs preclearance has also been expanded to the Toronto Islands and Quebec City airports and to rail stations in Montreal and Vancouver. The pilot project preclearance border station in British Columbia will become permanent.
Both sides will also establish a working group within 60 days to address the issue of errors of identity on the no-fly list.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau could not agree on a new softwood lumber deal, which expired last year. The President said U.S. and Canadian negotiators have been given 100 days to find a solution. He joked about the difficulty of getting both sides in the lumber dispute to settle.
“Each side will want 100 per cent and we’ll find a way for each side to get 60 per cent of what they need and people will complain and grumble, but it will be fine,” Mr. Obama said.
The President is in the final year of his presidency and many of the cross-border measures, especially a new softwood lumber deal, will require approval from a Republican-controlled Congress.
The Prime Minister reached out to congressional leaders, travelling to Capitol Hill to confer with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and about a dozen senators from both parties, including Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Amy Klobuchar and John Cornyn. He also met House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In the morning, a large crowd of people waving Canadian flags was on the front lawn of the White House to welcome Mr. Trudeau when he arrived to a full military honour guard. Michelle Obama accompanied her husband to greet the Prime Minister and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau.
“Mr. Prime Minister, your election and the first few months in office have brought a new energy and dynamism not only to Canada but to the relationship between our nations,” Mr. Obama said.
During the welcoming remarks, Mr. Obama took a friendly jab at Mr. Trudeau and the crowd.
“Now, I don’t want to gloss over the very real differences between Americans and Canadians. There are some things we will probably never agree on. Whose beer is better? Who’s better at hockey?” Mr. Obama joked. “Where’s the Stanley Cup right now? I’m sorry, is it in my hometown, with the Chicago Blackhawks?”
Mr. Trudeau responded by saying, “There’s a high demand for Canadian goods down here.
“A few that come to mind [are] … Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks,” Mr. Trudeau said, noting three prominent Canadians. Mr. Sharp has since joined the Dallas Stars.
At a lunch at the State Department for Mr. Trudeau and the Canadian delegation, Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the Prime Minister as “the world’s most influential Canadian.”
“It’s clear that the Prime Minster really has begun to make his mark on Canada’s future,” Mr. Kerry said.
“In the few months that he’s been in office, he has demonstrated remarkable leadership on refugees, on climate change, on advancing the status of women and girls and much more.”
In describing the relationship between the United States and Canada, Mr. Kerry said, “There’s nothing fake about it, there’s nothing contrived. These are not just words. It is real.”
Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger were seated at the head table, beside Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau.
In a lighthearted speech that referenced Wayne Gretzky, Rachel McAdams and Justin Bieber, Mr. Kerry also joked about Americans wanting to move to Canada because Mr. Trudeau is so popular, to which the Prime Minister replied, “Can’t think of any other reason.”
Washington — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 10, 2016 9:52AM EST
Last updated Friday, Mar. 11, 2016 8:56AM EST