Biden tells Trudeau that the world needs Canada to protect ‘liberal order’
If the West is to protect its “liberal economic order, liberal international order” during the Trump era, it will need to look to countries like Canada, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says.
The plain-spoken politician levied his gaze at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a state dinner in Ottawa on Thursday and told him, “the world is going to spend a lot of time looking at you, Mr. Prime Minister.
“You, and Angela Merkel.”
Biden was in the Canadian capital for the official dinner and a spate of meetings with Trudeau, coinciding with concerns north of the border that eight years of cooperation with the Obama administration — climate change pacts, clean energy agreements, border treaties — would be thrown into the garbage heap once Trump is sworn into office in January.
In some ways, Biden used his pulpit to allay concerns. He rattled off a list of areas where Ottawa and Washington could continue cooperation: NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe, cooperation fighting the Islamic State in Iraq, and phasing-out certain greenhouse gasses.
But the vice president also used the dinner to sound a dire note on the next four years in America, while never mentioning Trump explicitly.
“The changes that are going to take place are going to be astronomical,” Biden told the room, before adding that, in order for those changes to be positives, leaders like Trudeau and Merkel will need to get to work.
“We need you right now,” Biden told Trudeau.
Biden has hardly been tight-lipped about his dismay at the election. He’s openly mused about a possible presidential bid in 2020, and said publicly that he’s “embarrassed” by the way the election was conducted.
“There are periods where the number of genuine leaders on continents are in short supply, and when they’re in heavy supply,” he told the crowd at the dinner.
“I’ve never seen Europe engage in as much self-doubt as they are now,” he said. That “self-doubt” and “soul-searching” has happened in America, too.
Part of that dismay was reflected in Trudeau’s very cabinet. Ministers in Trudeau’s government have tried to put a public smile on Trump’s election and have pledged a positive working relationship with the Trump White House. Privately, however, at least during the off-the-record dinner, ministers were unapologetically apoplectic over the businessman’s win. They echoed Biden’s comments that Trump’s victory was a bookend to eight years of liberalism on the environment, trade, and domestic issues.
But Biden ended the night, peppered with stories of his own grandchildren and Trudeau’s late father — whom Biden knew during his stint as prime minister in the 1970s — on a positive note.
“Vive le Canada!” Biden exclaimed before going in for a hug with the prime minister.
Cover: Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press