Biden's first foreign leader call will be to Canada's Trudeau: White House

US President Joe Biden (left) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would discuss the "important relationship with Canada". PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Joe Biden's first call to a foreign leader will be to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, White House spokesman Jen Psaki said Wednesday (Jan 20), with the fate of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the agenda.

"His first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," Ms Psaki told reporters at her first White House briefing.

She said they would discuss the "important relationship with Canada" and the Biden administration's decision to halt further construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the US.

Mr Trudeau said he was "disappointed" by the move, which came shortly after Mr Biden took office.

"While we welcome the president's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President's decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL," Mr Trudeau said in a statement.

"I look forward to working with President Biden to reduce pollution, combat climate change, fight Covid-19, create middle-class jobs, and build back better by supporting a sustainable economic recovery for everyone."

TC Energy, the Canadian company behind the pipeline, suspended construction of the partially completed oil conduit on Wednesday, saying it was "disappointed" and the move would mean thousands of lost jobs.

"The decision would overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much needed energy in an environmentally responsible way while enhancing North American energy security," it said.

Canadian regulators approved the project in 2010 but it was blocked by president Barack Obama in 2015 owing to environmental concerns - a decision that his successor Donald Trump reversed in 2017.

While Ottawa has always supported the project, environmental groups and indigenous groups have steadfastly cried foul.

The 1,947km pipeline, starting in 2023, was to transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta oil sands to Nebraska and then through an existing system to refineries in coastal Texas.

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