TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he spoke with President-elect Joe Biden about China’s imprisonment of two Canadians in retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive and he expects Biden to be a good partner in persuading Beijing to release them.
The prime minister’s office said Trudeau was the first international leader to speak with Biden since U.S. news media determined he won the election. His office said they talked about a number of issues including the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the detained Canadians.
Beijing arrested former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor in December 2018 just days after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese Huawei executive and the daughter of the company’s founder.
The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges and her extradition case is before the Canadian courts. Her arrest severely damaged relations between China and Canada. China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended canola imports.
Trudeau earlier said China’s attempt at coercive diplomacy by imprisoning two Canadians in retaliation for the arrest of a top Huawei executive isn’t working.
“Their approach of coercive diplomacy is ineffective,” Trudeau said at a news conference. “I am extremely confident that the incoming administration will continue to be a good partner to Canada and other nations around the world as we look to impress upon China that the approach they are taking is simply not working.”
Trudeau said Kovrig and Spavor have been arbitrarily detained for over 700 days.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in a luxury Vancouver home while her extradition case continues in British Columbia court. The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to deceive banks and do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
A senior Canadian government official said the majority of the Biden-Trudeau call was about the pandemic.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly about the call, said the U.S.-Canada border, which remains closed to nonessential travel, was also mentioned as a topic to be discussed once Biden is president.
Trudeau also raised the Keystone XL pipeline, a project meant to expand critical oil exports for Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. That could be an early irritant as Biden has said he would cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden didn’t mention the pipeline in a statement from his office which highlighted what the two talked about.