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U.S. ambassador says Biden is ‘eager’ to visit Canada — when timing permits

OTTAWA, Ont. — Joe Biden will visit Canada — he just needs an opening.

“President Biden will come to Canada in person,” David Cohen, U.S. ambassador to Canada, told POLITICO on Wednesday during an interview at the embassy in Ottawa.

“There are ongoing discussions. The only complexity is the president’s schedule. You have the midterm elections coming up and you’ve got the double bout of Covid, which has taken the president off of the road and has jammed other things further back in his schedule.”

Cohen added: “He is eager to come to Canada — and that will happen.” The only issue is timing, the envoy said, without offering potential dates.

In February 2021, the newly installed president held formal meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his first official “visit” with another world leader. However, the bilateral summit happened via video link thanks to the Covid pandemic.

“The United States has no closer friend — no closer friend than Canada,” Biden said ahead of that virtual summit. “That’s why you were my first call as president, my first bilateral meeting.”

Biden’s pre-presidential, personal connection with Trudeau has eased strain at the top following four tumultuous years in the relationship under the Trump administration. Trudeau hosted a state dinner in Ottawa for Biden, then vice president, in December 2016, a few weeks after Donald Trump captured his surprise election victory.

The window for a sitting president to make a foreign trip is likely minuscule in normal times. The remarkable events of the past year and a half — notably the pandemic’s persistence and Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine — have undoubtedly added to the scheduling challenge.

Some have speculated Biden was preparing a summertime trip to Canada. In early June, when Biden and Trudeau met on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, the leaders agreed the president would visit Canada “in the coming months.”

Since meeting with Trudeau in L.A., Biden has visited Germany for the G-7, Spain for NATO, the West Bank, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But the president recently tested positive for Covid. Trudeau has since left for a two-week family vacation to Costa Rica, eliminating early August as a potential opening for Biden-to-Canada visit.

The president and prime minister have met several times face-to-face on the world stage at international summits.

But a Biden visit to Canada could help repair a relationship frayed by Trump’s approach to America’s neighbor and close ally.

Trump launched the countries into a turbulent renegotiation of NAFTA. Along the way, the U.S. applied stinging levies on Canadian steel and aluminum and Ottawa responded with counter-tariffs.

Tensions — and sharp words — were public and came at the highest level.

Since his arrival in Ottawa as ambassador last December, Cohen said he’s been struck by “almost the hurt” that Canadians have felt for the way their treatment under the previous administration.

“There’s a thirst for a restoration of the full friendship and full partnership and full ally-ship … that Canada and the United States enjoy together,” he said. “And I’ve sort of grafted that onto my job.”

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