WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama offered a red-carpet welcome for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Thursday, ending a frosty period in U.S.-Canada relations and celebrating shared goals on climate and trade.
"We haven't always conveyed how much we treasure our alliance and ties with our Canadian friends," Obama said in a welcoming ceremony.
The two nations started the day by agreeing joint steps to fight climate change, including cutting methane emissions from oil and gas operations and signing last year's Paris climate deal "as soon as feasible."
Methane, which can leak from pipelines and valves, is a powerful greenhouse gas, with up to 80 times the potential of carbon dioxide to trap the planet's heat.
The countries also committed to cutting emissions of methane by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025, to take steps to fight climate change in the Arctic, and to speed development of green technologies.
Obama has much in common with Trudeau, the progressive 44-year-old Liberal Party leader who took office in November. He replaced Conservative Stephen Harper, who had hectored the White House for years in a failed bid to push through U.S. approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Trudeau's official visit will be capped by a state dinner on Thursday, making him the first Canadian leader to be granted that honor since 1997.
"Our great countries have been friends a long time. We grew up together ... and through it all, our enormous shared accomplishments speak for themselves," he said in reply to Obama.
Americans have been captivated by the photogenic Trudeau, 44, whose father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister from 1968 through 1979, and again from 1980 to 1984.
Also on the agenda for Oval Office talks are plans to expedite bilateral travel and trade, and shared areas of global concern ranging from Syria to Ukraine.
Trudeau, who is struggling at home with a soft economy and a weak Canadian dollar, campaigned on repairing strained ties.
But his visit may be overshadowed by the raucous race to succeed Obama in the Nov. 8 presidential election. Candidates on both the left and right have taken anti-free-trade positions.
Obama hopes to convince a reluctant U.S. Congress to ratify the sprawling Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact before he leaves office in January. Canada is also wrestling with the merits of the TPP.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and James Dalgleish)