Any imminent Biden-Trudeau meeting will be virtual

·2 min read
Asked about U.S. President Joe Biden, left, potentially meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a White House spokesperson said any meetings with the president over the coming months would be virtual.
Asked about U.S. President Joe Biden, left, potentially meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a White House spokesperson said any meetings with the president over the coming months would be virtual.

(Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians.

What's new

Any imminent meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to happen virtually.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki made clear Tuesday that the president has no immediate plans for face-to-face encounters with foreign leaders because of the pandemic.

That statement comes after Trudeau said they'd agreed to meet sometime in February, following a phone call last month, the new president's first with a foreign counterpart.

Psaki was asked Tuesday about the plan to meet Trudeau, and she indicated that any meeting over the coming months would be virtual.

"You can meet over video — as we all know.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

"I would anticipate … that it will be a couple of months before the president has an in-person [meeting], or invites a foreign leader to meet in person here at the White House."

The no-travel policy in the new administration extends beyond Biden. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NPR on Tuesday that the pandemic is also curtailing any plans for foreign meetings — which is a break from his predecessor Mike Pompeo.

What's next

In their initial phone chat, Trudeau and Biden set a few early priorities including the pandemic, modernizing continental defence systems via NORAD and climate change.

The centrepiece of Biden's climate plan involves a big question mark for Canada.

Biden's proposed $2 trillion green-infrastructure overhaul will include Buy American provisions, but, with the plan still in its early drafting, it remains to be seen whether, and how, those provisions might affect Canada.

One thing the leaders are unlikely to discuss at any length is Keystone XL and the president's rejection of the pipeline.

Chris Wattie/Reuters
Chris Wattie/Reuters

Neither leader has expressed an interest in revisiting the issue and, although Biden has taken some flak domestically, it's unclear from the initial surveys that the issue has made much of a dent or affected the president's strong early poll numbers.

A senior aide to the last two Democratic presidents, John Podesta, said last week in a panel discussion on climate change that there is no chance whatsoever of Biden reversing his Keystone XL decision.

"I think Keystone's dead. He's not going back. … So we've just gotta get over it. Move on. And find these places on clean energy where we can co-operate."