Canada’s Trudeau begins US state visit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, holding his son Hadrian, stepping off a plane with his wife Sophie Gregoire-TrudeauImage copyright

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Mr Trudeau was elected in October, ending nine years of conservative rule

Canada’s newly-elected liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived in Washington for the first state visit by a Canadian leader in nearly 20 years.

He is to make a visit to the White House later for talks with President Barack Obama.

Trade and environmental issues are expected to be high on the agenda.

The visit comes as relations between the two countries improve after being strained under Mr Trudeau’s conservative predecessor Steven Harper.

Mr Obama extended an invitation to Mr Trudeau shortly after his election in October 2015.

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On Wednesday evening a reception for Mr Trudeau was held by two think-tanks in central Washington, reported to have had a long waiting list for guests.

At the scene: the BBC’s Barbara Plett in Washington

It was all very hip and happening: a reception at the grand Renwick Gallery across from the White House, with Canada’s Grammy-nominated singer The Weeknd in the crowd. You could tell where Justin Trudeau was by following the iPhone cameras as people pressed in to shake his hand and take selfies.

The new Canadian prime minister worked the room with a common touch and fresh-faced energy that’s going over well in a Washington riven by a corrosive presidential election campaign.

“The world will do better when this continent is at its best,” Mr Trudeau told the guests. “Our friendship can serve as a model.” He is determined to repair relations after a long fight under the previous government over a crude oil pipeline.

And President Barack Obama is delighted to comply. He sees in the young leader a man who shares his progressive politics, as well as his early rhetoric of hope and change. So expect good optics and atmospherics to frame the discussions on crucial economic and security ties.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty in Washington right now and it’s not exactly clear what this visit will mean by this time next year.

After talks between the two men later on Thursday, a state dinner is due to be held in the evening with nods to Canada on the menu in the form of poutine, Nanaimo bars and white chocolate snowballs.

The youthful Mr Trudeau’s optimistic election platform has led many to draw comparisons with the beginning of Mr Obama’s presidency and some American liberals to draw envious comparisons with the US’s political scene.

As Donald Trump solidified his position as front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination earlier this month, there was even a spike in internet searches about how to move to Canada.

At the last meeting in November, Mr Obama gently reminded Mr Trudeau of the travails of implementing his agenda: “I just want to point out that I had no grey hair when I was in your shoes seven years ago,” he said.

US-Canada relations had previously suffered when Mr Obama’s administration opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, which was meant to transport oil from Canadian tar sands in Alberta to the US Gulf coast.

After Mr Trudeau’s election, Mr Obama said they had agreed that the issue of climate change trumped any differences of opinion over the pipeline.


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