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Stronger US-Canada ties on menu at talks between Obama and Trudeau

Published 10/03/2016

US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stand for the playing of national anthems at the White House (AP)
US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stand for the playing of national anthems at the White House (AP)

A military band played and the White House rolled out the red carpet for the first official visit in nearly two decades by a Canadian prime minister.

President Barack Obama greeted Justin Trudeau, a liberal leader intent on tight ties with the US, by emphasising that their nations are blessed to be neighbours, with shared views on the importance of health care as a right for all and diversity as a sign of strength.

"We see ourselves in each other, guided by the same values," Mr Obama said.

At the ornate arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Mr Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed Mr Trudeau, the 44-year-old son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, and his wife, Sophie Gregoire.

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?" Mr Obama joked, before answering his own question - the Chicago Blackhawks won it last season.

Mr Trudeau tried to match Mr 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 the Obama administration's 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-US relationship," Mr 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 Mr Obama noted.

"It's about time, eh?" Mr Obama said.

Canada is the United States' largest trading partner, with more than 2 billion US dollars (£1.4 billion) worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. About 75% of Canada's exports go to the US.

Besides trade, the two leaders were expected to seek common ground on environment protection. Before their meeting, the US and Canada said in a statement that they will work to put in place an international agreement in Paris on curbing global warming. They committed to reducing methane emissions by 40% to 45% from 2012 levels over the coming decade.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the US from human activities and is much more efficient at trapping radiation than carbon dioxide.

Mr 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.

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