MANILA, Philippines — Justin Trudeau has left the building.
Canada's new prime minister departed Thursday from the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Manila, closing his first act on the international stage — trailed by a squealing mob of young Filipino journalists and volunteers and questions about whether any of it might be good for his broader foreign policy goals.
Dozens deep, the group shrieked and wailed as they followed Trudeau out of the summit's international media centre in a cocoon of adulation. Television cameras, microphones, a sea of cellphone cameras and some stone-faced RCMP protection officers rounded it out.
For the man at the centre of it all, the hope is that it will mean a better understanding of the contribution Canada intends to make on the world stage.
"I'm pleased that Canada's getting a little more attention right now, because it gives us an opportunity to highlight the issues that are important to us," Trudeau said when asked about the culture of celebrity that enveloped him during the APEC summit.
"We'll take some interest right now and convert that into the substance of what we're talking about."
One of the things Trudeau talked about a lot at this summit was the need to put Canada on the front lines of the fight against climate change.
"Canada hasn't been doing enough on the environmental front." — Trudeau
Earlier in the day, that won him plaudits from U.S. President Barack Obama.
"This is going to be a messy, bumpy process worldwide but I am confident that we can get it done," Obama said.
"The fact that we now have a very strong partner in Canada to help set up some global rules around how we approach this I think will be extraordinarily helpful."
But Obama put the squeeze on Trudeau on a key trade issue. The president said that the U.S. and Canada are "both soon to be signatories" to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Trudeau has repeatedly said he wants to consult with Canadians and Parliament before moving forward on the massive 12-country Pacific Rim trade pact. But Obama told this summit he wants countries to move swiftly towards ratification.
"It is clear from the president's remarks that he is already guiding the prime minister through the TPP door," said Fen Hampson, head of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
Obama made the remark after his first formal bilateral meeting with Trudeau on the final day of the summit.
Their 23-minute meeting covered a range of topics, including the fight against Islamic extremism, the refugee crisis and the economy.
Barack Obama istens as Trudeau speaks during a bilateral meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 19, 2015. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)
Trudeau held to his plan to withdraw Canada's CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition bombing Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq.
But Trudeau said Canada will keep doing "more than its part" to defend against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — also known as ISIL or ISIS — by augmenting its contingent of ground troops currently training in Iraq.
The two leaders appeared at ease and amicable, as Obama invited Trudeau to pay his maiden visit to Washington early in the new year, saying his wife, Michelle, would enjoy meeting "Canada's new first lady."
Obama said the 43-year-old prime minister will provide "energy and reform" to the Canadian political landscape.
There was no animosity in sight over Obama's decision earlier this month to reject the Keystone XL pipeline project. At the time, Obama had environmental concerns about approving the transport of dirty oil from Alberta across the United States.
"Canada hasn't been doing enough on the environmental front," said Trudeau. "We understand as a government that there is no longer a choice to be made between what's good for the environment or what's good for the economy."
Obama avoided the bait in a Canadian reporter's question to level more criticism at the Alberta oilsands, saying all countries have to transition away from carbon-based energy — including Canada and the U.S., both of which are big oil and gas producers.
"We make no apologies for that, but I also think we have to recognize if we want to preserve this planet for our kids and grandkids, we're going to have to shift increasingly away from carbon emitting energy sources," the president said.
"My expectation is that Canada will be going through these same debates just as we do."
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