U.S. President Joe Biden said Canada and America will work together to secure the safe release of two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — detained in China.

Biden’s remarks came after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday afternoon.

“Human beings are not bartering chips,” Biden told reporters. “We’re going to work together until we get their safe return. Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedom.”

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Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China in 2018 on espionage charges, shortly after Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou was detained by authorities in British Columbia on an extradition charge from the United States.

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Canadian officials have repeatedly called for their release, calling their detention arbitrary.

Speaking in French, Trudeau thanked Biden for his support in calling for the release of the men.

“We are facing tough times, there’s no doubt,” Trudeau said. “But we are not facing them alone.

“Canada and the United States are each other’s closest allies, most important trading partners, and oldest friends.”

Click to play video 'What to expect from Trudeau and Biden’s 1st bilateral meeting'

What to expect from Trudeau and Biden’s 1st bilateral meeting

What to expect from Trudeau and Biden’s 1st bilateral meeting

The two leaders also discussed the economic recovery from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said the countries are working in “close cooperation” to ensure Canada and the U.S. are driving a “robust economic recovery that benefits everyone.”

Neither of the leader’s remarks directly mentioned the cross-border Keystone XL Pipeline expansion project.

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During his first day in office, Biden revoked a presidential permit signed by his predecessor which would have allowed the expansion to continue.

The move dealt an especially hard blow to Alberta and Saskatchewan, whose energy sectors were counting on the US$8-billion project.

Speaking after the meeting, Trudeau said he and Biden are on “the same page when it comes to standing up for the middle class and people working hard to join it.”

“And with millions of families relying on the Canada-U.S. partnership, this is work we must do,” he said. “Just take the energy industry – Canadian energy workers power homes on both sides of the border. It just goes to show that we’re all better off for this partnership.”

Trudeau said the leaders discussed “leveraging supply chains and support for businesses to create good, well-paying jobs and help people who have been hit hardest get back on their feet.”

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The leaders also discussed their shared push for combatting climate change.

Click to play video 'Biden, Trudeau outline key priorities between U.S., Canada after 1st bilateral meeting'

Biden, Trudeau outline key priorities between U.S., Canada after 1st bilateral meeting

Biden, Trudeau outline key priorities between U.S., Canada after 1st bilateral meeting

“Now that the United States is back in the Paris Agreement, we intend to demonstrate our leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions,” Biden said.

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“Canada and the United States are going to work in lock-step to display the seriousness of our commitment at both home and abroad.”

Trudeau joined the meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau in Ottawa.

Biden, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined the meeting from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The bilateral meeting comes just hours before a special House of Commons committee formed to discuss the countries’ financial relationship was scheduled to meet for the first time.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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