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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 26, 2021.POOL/The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to expand trade with Canada, offering Ottawa hope in the face of President Joe Biden’s tougher Buy American provisions. But he stopped short on Friday of guaranteeing Canada an exemption from these tighter new procurement policies.

Mr. Blinken spoke via video link with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau in his first foreign “visits” since taking office, in which he met with officials in Canada and Mexico from the ornate Ben Franklin room at State Department headquarters in Washington.

One Canadian official with knowledge of the agenda said it included Mr. Biden’s plan to enact more stringent Buy American rules, as well as his cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and Michigan’s attempt to shut down the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Canadian argument, the source said, is that resolving these bilateral disputes would build a stronger North American alliance to work together on the larger international files Mr. Biden wants to tackle: an increasingly aggressive China and climate change, for instance. The Globe and Mail is keeping the identities of the source and another official confidential to learn the substance of closed-door discussions.

Speaking with reporters after the meetings, Mr. Blinken demurred on Ottawa’s coveted Buy American exemption. But he said he believes Canada could play a major role in Mr. Biden’s effort to shore up continental supply chains.

“We’re now looking at the executive order that the President issued. We’ll want to make sure as well that we’re consistent with our obligations, including under the WTO [World Trade Organization],” he said. “There is ample opportunity for us to work together and find ways to benefit each other in trade, in investment, and in the work that we’re doing, especially on things like supply chains.”

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The two Canadian officials said Mr. Biden last month told Mr. Trudeau that Canada would be consulted as the Buy American regulations are finalized. That process is still unfolding. The matter wasn’t mentioned after the two leaders’ virtual meeting earlier this week.

Inu Manak, a trade analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute think tank, said it was a missed opportunity for the Biden administration not to publicly commit to exempting Canada. Such a pledge would show Mr. Biden was serious about his promise to mend fences with allies after years of trade warfare under former president Donald Trump.

“It’s the sort of thing that should have been an easy overture by the Biden administration,” Ms. Manak said. “If you’re going to do an exemption anyway, why not say it in a big, high-level meeting so everyone feels good about having something concrete come out of this.”

Mr. Blinken on Friday also reiterated Mr. Biden’s demand that China release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians detained for more than two years in retaliation for Canada serving a U.S. arrest warrant on Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. But he would not say what specifically the United States would do to help secure their release.

“There are legal questions that are appropriately the province of our Department of Justice,” he said, referring to the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement with Ms. Meng.

Friday’s meetings continued the warm tone from the rest of the week, in sharp contrast with the often acrimonious summits of the Trump years. “It’s hard to think of two countries whose destinies are more connected, more intertwined than ours,” Mr. Blinken told Mr. Garneau at the start of their meeting.

The Foreign Affairs Minister replied with what appeared to be an oblique reference to his exemption request on Buy American. “I think that you’ll find that we can be surprisingly helpful to you,” he said, “while advancing our own objectives.”

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