Biden Hails Trudeau, Merkel as Last Liberal Leaders Standing

2016-12-09 13:05:00

Biden Hails Trudeau, Merkel as Last Liberal Leaders Standing

By Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg News

The world will look to Germany and Canada for leadership as the political status-quo is upended across the West, Vice-President Joe Biden said.

Visiting Ottawa before he leaves office, the vice-president called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who is beginning his second year in power — to set an example on the international stage.

“I’ve never seen Europe engaged in as much self-doubt,” Biden said Thursday evening at a dinner hosted by Trudeau. “The world’s going to spend a lot of time looking to you, prime minister, as we see more and more challenges to the liberal international order since the end of World War II — you and Angela Merkel.”

Trudeau is an avowed feminist pushing a pro-trade and pro-immigration agenda that is at odds with the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump. However, the prime minister has largely avoided criticizing him, saying he will work with any U.S. leader.

Biden met with Canadian premiers and indigenous leaders on Friday as they prepare to negotiate a national climate accord with Trudeau. The vice-president called climate change the “most consequential issue of our generation,” and ended his remarks with a toast of “viva Canada.”

Climate ‘Tide’

Environmental issues could be a source of friction between the countries. Trudeau is speeding up Canada’s phase-out of coal power and putting a national price on carbon emissions. Trump, meanwhile, is looking to overhaul the Energy Department, has threatened to pull the U.S. of the Paris climate accord and has chosen an outspoken critic of the Environmental Protection Agency to lead it.

Speaking to premiers Friday morning alongside Trudeau, Biden said U.S. climate progress will nonetheless continue under Trump — if only because it is now largely driven by market forces and by actions taken at the state level.

“Regardless of whether the next administration is as aggressive as we were, there’s no way to turn back,” he said. “This tide has begun to roll.”

The vice-president urged the premiers to act quickly to mitigate climate change, and thanked Canada for its “continued leadership” on the issue. “It’s going to be absolutely critical in the years ahead,” he said, again telling Trudeau other world leaders are looking at him to act.

Trade Friction

The bilateral meeting comes as Trudeau’s government prepares for the arrival in the White House of Trump, who has both threatened to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and raised hopes for reviving TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal. Canada and the U.S. are also facing trade battles over softwood lumber and drywall.

Both Trudeau and Biden praised the Canada-U.S. relationship, with the vice-president calling it “absolutely critical” and saying the vast majority of Americans consider Canada to be family. Trudeau made no direct reference to Trump, though cited “all the cycles of political seasons” in his remarks.

“We do very well in all conditions and this friendship endures through whatever situations we encounter,” the prime minister said Thursday evening. “It’s a special friendship, one that is unique on the world stage.”

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