Nice to make nice with the neighbors.
Even through a video screen, you could feel the warm fuzzies between President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the two met Tuesday for a symbolic rebooting of neighborly relations grown testy over the past four years.
Biden recalled visiting Canada in 2016 when he was vice president and joked about his poor French. Trudeau said he welcomed partnership with the United States “to keep making sure we are pulling our weight around the world and making the world a better and safer place for everyone.”
The relief on Trudeau’s masked face was obvious as he and Biden held the pandemic version of an Oval Office sit-down. Trudeau was in Ottawa and Biden in Washington, but the White House clearly intended the session to be intimate and celebratory, a sort of hug meant to salve Canada’s wounded pride after the slights inflicted by President Donald Trump.
“The United States has no closer friend — no closer friend — than Canada,” Biden said. “That’s why you were my first call,” he added, and the first foreign leader to receive an invitation to the White House, even if conducted long-distance.
Neither leader mentioned Trump by name during the portion of their long-distance meeting seen by reporters. They didn’t have to.
“U.S. leadership has been sorely missed over the past years,” Trudeau said. He noted how differently the process of crafting a joint statement went this time: “It’s nice when the Americans aren’t pulling out all references to climate change, and instead adding them in.”
That was partly a reference to a disastrous 2018 meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies hosted by Canada. Trump skipped the session on climate change and refused to sign onto a statement endorsing the Paris climate agreement. Trump pulled the United States out of that pact; Biden recently rejoined it.
Trump’s outburst at the time of that G-7 meeting included personally attacking Trudeau, tweeting after leaving the meeting that his Canadian host was “very dishonest” and “weak.”
The shock and hurt in Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner and a close ally, was hard to overstate. But for all the palpable relief Tuesday, several irritants remain between the two countries, and Biden added one more on his first day in office when he canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
When you share a 3,000 mile (4,800 km) border that is largely unprotected and you spend more money trading with one province (Ontario) than you do with most other countries around the world, it’s good to be friends. Or, as they would say in the True North, don’t be a hoser.