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Blinken to virtually visit Canada, Mexico Friday

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 25 Feb, 2021 06:33 PM
  • Blinken to virtually visit Canada, Mexico Friday

Antony Blinken will meet virtually Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a day of online diplomacy for the U.S. secretary of state.

Blinken will meet with Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and other members of the federal cabinet, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The visit will follow up on Trudeau's own summit this week with U.S. President Joe Biden, which produced a "road map" for plans to collaborate on issues like climate change, the economy and COVID-19.

"We are neighbours, friends and allies," Price said.

Agenda items also include "defending human rights in the Western Hemisphere and around the world, and bolstering our shared defence and security."

That means the conversations will likely include the plight of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians who have spent the last two years in custody in China.

Spavor and Kovrig — the "two Michaels," as they are known in Canada — were swept up in the weeks that followed Canada's arrest in December 2018 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei and daughter of the company's founder.

Meng is facing extradition to the U.S., where she has been charged with violating sanctions against Iran — a case some observers believe is sure to keep the two Michaels behind bars indefinitely.

On Tuesday, Biden vowed to work with Canada to secure their release, but offered no clues as to what specifically the U.S. is prepared to do.

Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi would only say the U.S. will "continue to seek extradition."

Earlier this month, Canada, the U.S. and a coalition of 56 other countries collectively denounced the state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign nationals for political purposes.

Blinken has endorsed the declaration and called on countries around the world "to put an end to this practice, to release those detained under such conditions and to respect the rule of law and human rights."

The followup work after Tuesday's bilateral meetings continued this week in other departments as well.

Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke Wednesday with John Kerry, Biden's special envoy on climate, to shore up plans for more stringent emissions-reduction targets in advance of a climate summit in April.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra committed to more stringent vehicle pollution standards to push both countries towards a zero-emissions future on roadways throughout the continent.

They are also collaborating on new standards for aviation and for seagoing vessels, as well as efforts to develop new clean-tech solutions with an eye toward the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Blinken is also scheduled to meet with a group of Canadian students, as well as with Mexico's foreign secretary and secretary of the economy during a "visit" to a port of entry facility along the U.S.'s southern border.

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