November 19, 2015 / 7:35 AM / 3 years ago

Canada PM meets Obama for first time, insists will withdraw jets

MANILA (Reuters) - New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held his first formal meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday as the two men tried to repair relations that have become frayed over the last decade.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama deliver remarks to reporters after their bilateral meeting alongside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila, Philippines, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“I’m confident that he’s going to be able to provide a great boost of energy and reform to the Canadian political landscape,” Obama told reporters after the two talked on the margins of an Asia-Pacific summit.

In last month’s election, Trudeau’s Liberals defeated Stephen Harper, who had irritated the Obama administration by insisting it approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would have taken tar sands oil from Canada to U.S. refineries.

Obama - whose ties with Harper were usually frosty - said he hoped Trudeau would be able to visit him in the White House early next year for more substantial talks.

“It’s going to be a wonderful time of strengthening ties between our two countries,” said Trudeau, who is much closer politically to Obama than the right-of-centre Harper.

The two leaders, who smiled and looked relaxed during their appearance, said they agreed on the need to do more to protect the environment and also on the importance of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State.

Trudeau though vowed to stick to a promise to withdraw six Canadian jets that have been attacking the militants in Iraq and Syria.

Diplomats say the United States and Britain have expressed concern about the proposed withdrawal, saying it could undermine the coalition.

Trudeau added he had reassured the president that Canada was committed to the U.S.-led campaign against the militants. Canada, he says, could contribute more effectively by training Kurdish troops in northern Iraq.

Neither man mentioned Harper, who during his nine years in power said as little as he could about the environment and pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

This did little to endear him to Obama, who vetoed Keystone XL earlier this month, saying it would send the wrong signal at a time when the world needed to do more to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

Trudeau said that over the last decade many people felt Canada had not being doing enough on the environmental front.

“One of the first tasks that I have on energy and climate issues is to reassure Canadians and others that we are serious about meeting reduction targets (and) being positive actors on the world stage in the fight against climate change,” he said.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by David Ljunggren and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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