White House: ‘special relationship’ developing with Trudeau as PM set to visit

The White House says a special relationship is developing with Canada's new prime minister, amid plans for a variety of new agreements when Justin Trudeau visits Washington for the first prime ministerial state dinner in nearly two decades.

WASHINGTON — The White House says a special relationship is developing with Canada’s new prime minister, amid plans for a variety of new agreements when Justin Trudeau visits Washington for the first prime ministerial state dinner in nearly two decades.

Mark Feierstein, a White House official, says there’s a unique alignment of priorities for President Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau, whose three-day visit to the U.S. capital begins Wednesday.

“I think there is a developing special relationship between this president and prime minister,” Feierstein said during a briefing Tuesday.

“They’re both young leaders with similar visions, both have a progressive vision of governing, both very much committed to appropriate use of multilateral tools, both committed to diversity.

“I think there’s a coincidence, very much, in terms of the agendas that both administrations have. I think we’re seeing that reflected, for example, on the issues of climate change and refugees.”

Another official said there was instant spike in Canadian effort on the climate file after Trudeau was elected, something that was apparent at the recent Paris summit.

The leaders are expected to announce a wide-ranging agreement on climate change, new border-security measures and an effort to avoid an impasse in the softwood-lumber dispute.

“The climate relationship with Canada really just ramped up dramatically, quickly,” said White House climate envoy Todd Stern.

“Canadians in Paris were extraordinarily effective…. They made a very positive splash.”

Stern said the shift began with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s appearance at a pre-summit meeting. Then he said Canada joined a new agreement of high-ambition countries that had eluded parties for years, and he credited her with helping facilitate it.

Trudeau will be attending the first U.S. state dinner for a Canadian leader in 19 years, as well as speaking to progressive think-tanks, laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and chatting with university students in Washington.

Maple Leaf flags are already dotting the public spaces around the White House, including down Pennsylvania Avenue which leads past the Canadian embassy to the U.S. Capitol.