White House seeks new climate measures, trade progress in Trudeau visit

Tue Mar 8, 2016 11:31am EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to discuss new ideas for curbing climate change and expanding trade during an Oval Office meeting this week, White House officials said during a preview on Tuesday.

Trudeau, who pledged to repair frayed ties with the United States when he took office in November, will meet with Obama on Thursday ahead of a star-studded state dinner.

The White House, which sees a natural partner in Trudeau, hopes the two countries can commit to cut methane emissions from the energy sector by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025, and endorse an initiative to stop routine flaring from oil and gas fields, said Todd Stern, the U.S. climate envoy.

“The commitment of both leaders to addressing this global challenge is clear and I expect under their leadership North America will make significant progress this year,” Stern told reporters.

Stern said the two countries also are looking at ways to make carbon emissions from the aviation sector "neutral," starting in 2020 through the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization.

The United States also hopes to accelerate the timetable to phase out HFCs, industrial gases that have far more potential to trap the earth's heat than carbon dioxide, through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, Stern said.

On trade, a hot-button issue for both Democrats and Republicans in the race to succeed Obama in the Nov. 8 presidential election, the leaders are likely to discuss two longstanding irritants, softwood lumber and meat labeling.

A deal governing Canadian softwood lumber exports expired last year, and the two nations are talking about a new arrangement, said Mark Feierstein, the White House National Security Council's senior director for the Western hemisphere.   Continued...

A cyclist passes U.S. and Canadian flags placed side-by-side on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque