By Rob Gillies And Kevin Freking
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON: One is leaving office soon, the other just starting, but President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau basked in mutual affection Thursday over all the things they share, emphasizing common ground on trade and combating climate change.
Trudeau’s official visit to the United States was the first by a Canadian leader in nearly two decades. He and Obama announced new efforts to curb global warming and to make it easier for the two countries to trade with one another. They also appeared to enjoy each other’s company, with Obama playing the role of elder statesman and Trudeau sounding a youthful “hope and change” theme like the one Obama campaigned on seven years ago.
“From my perspective, what’s not to like?” Obama said.
The 44-year-old Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, won last October’s election borrowing the theme of optimism and said he’s learned a lot from 54-year-old Obama.
“He’s somebody with a big heart, but also a big brain,” Trudeau said. “And for me to be able to count on a friend who has lived through many of the things that I’m about to encounter on the political stage, on the international stage, it’s a great comfort to me.”
Beginning with an ornate arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed Trudeau, his wife, Sophie Gregoire, and their three children.
The leaders found time for some levity before heading into an Oval Office meeting, with a state dinner to come in the evening.
The president hit on a topic of national pride for Canadians: hockey. “Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?” Obama joked, before answering his own question, the Chicago Blackhawks won it last season.
Trudeau tried to match Obama’s trash talk, noting that three of the Blackhawks’ best players are from Canada. Still, the young prime minister’s remarks were largely earnest. He linked his agenda to that of the Obama administration and said the two governments “share and are working on the exact same objectives.”
“There is no relationship in the entire world like the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Trudeau said. “We grew up together.”
Despite that close geographical and political alliance, no Canadian prime minister had made an official visit since 1997, a fact that Obama noted.
“It’s about time, eh?” Obama said, playing up the Canadian colloquialism.
The leaders also sought to show progress on common areas of concern. Obama said they had instructed aides to work on efforts that would make it easier for goods and people to move back and forth between the two nation’s borders. Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, with more than $2 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. About 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S.
And to start the day off, they announced efforts to reduce methane emissions from gas and oil production. They committed to reducing methane emissions by 40 per cent to 45 per cent from 2012 levels over the coming decade.
“I’m confident that by working together, we’ll get there sooner than we think,” Trudeau said.
Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. from human activities and is much more efficient at trapping radiation than carbon dioxide.
They also announced Obama will address Canada’s Parliament in June.
Trudeau’s father swept into power in 1968 and, with a short interruption, served until 1984. He was often compared to President John F. Kennedy and remains one of the few Canadian politicians known in America.
Tall and fit, Justin Trudeau channels the charisma of his father. He aims to restore his father’s legacy as leader of the Liberal Party, which was under siege during 10 years of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper, Trudeau’s predecessor.