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US, Canada agree to join forces against China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A screen shows US President Joe Biden (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking to the media after holding a virtual bilateral meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, the US, on February 23, 2021.(Photo by AFP)

US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed to work together to counter China's growing global influence.

"The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada," Biden told Trudeau during an online bilateral meeting on Tuesday to provide a "roadmap" for better relations.

"That's why you were my first call as president (and) my first bilateral meeting," Biden added.

Biden said the dispute between Canada and China over the detention of two Canadian nationals was related to Washington, insisting that the two jailed Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, needed to be released.

Kovrig and Spavor, who were arrested in China in December 2018, were charged with suspected espionage in June last year. Their arrest came soon after the financial director of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was taken into custody in Canada on a United States warrant.

Biden implied that the two were being used as "bartering chips," adding, "We're going to work together until we get their safe return."

Biden also said the two leaders would work together closely in the pursuit of economic prosperity in order to strengthen the North American economy, supply-chain security, and resilience for all its people, "not just those at the top."

Trudeau, for his part, called the relations between the two countries as "extraordinary."

Canada's premier welcomed the advent of Biden's administration and said US leadership had been "sorely missed" in the turbulent past years before his arrival, in an apparent criticism of former president Donald Trump, who had a sometimes tense personal relationship with Trudeau.

Trudeau now hopes to revive relations with the US to coalesce against a rising China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has already warned Biden that a confrontation between China and the United States would be a “disaster.”

Xi told Biden in their first telephone conversation earlier this month that the two countries should resolve matters between them peacefully.

US Senators to revive anti-China bill

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of US Senators are set to revive anti-China legislation as soon as Wednesday.

US officials have previously claimed that the Chinese government has sought to suppress opposition to its ruling Communist Party by allegedly coercing US companies, from hotel chains and airlines to Hollywood film producers, to take pro-Beijing stances.

Former US attorney general William Barr said last year that Hollywood companies routinely caved to pressure and censored their films to "appease" China, which last year overtook the United States as the world's largest film market.

The bill in question would mandate a report with recommendations for "industries in which freedom of expression issues are particularly acute, including the media and film industries," according to a copy of the proposed legislation seen by Reuters.

"We must monitor and address the impacts of China's censorship and intimidation of Americans and our companies, so we can create a strategy to safeguard this bedrock freedom and hold those accountable who suppress and destroy it," Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore) said in comments emailed to Reuters.

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