OTTAWA —U.S. President Joe Biden arrives on Parliament Hill late Friday morning for a long-awaited Canada-U.S. summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of a formal address to Parliament.
A series of working meetings between the two leaders and their top advisors will focus on geopolitical hot button issues like Ukraine, Haiti and China; on irregular migration; on defence spending; and on the economy, with Canada and U.S. officials saying that’s the priority of the Biden and Trudeau governments.
Before the meetings began, American officials described it as an opportunity to build on a relationship that is not only good for both countries but “for the world.”
For all the hype, there are clear irritants, but on Thursday, as Biden landed, there were also signals that the visit would warm up relations more, as reports emerged the two leaders could reach agreement on irregular migration.
A bilateral pact — called the Safe Third Country Agreement — would be expanded to allow border guards to turn back asylum seekers crossing anywhere at the land border to the other country, if finalized by the leaders. And AP reported Canada could accelerate its timeline for spending on North America’s joint air defence system.
But the economic partnership is expected to dominate the leaders’ agendas.
With the Biden Administration prepared to spend up to $370 billon on accelerating the clean energy transition, and boosting domestic energy production and manufacturing, the Trudeau government is fighting to ensure Canadian businesses and workers are not left out or left behind, while persuading the U.S. it is an ally in developing the burgeoning electric vehicle industry, not a competitor, and a reliable supplier of the critical minerals necessary to make the transition.
Goldy Hyder, head of the Business Council of Canada, said the visit is a chance to talk about ways that “Canada and the U.S. can work together in the global race to the top on clean energy.”
“Canada has a lot of what the U.S. needs, but it is critical that we deliver the goods. The upcoming federal budget is an important test for Canada to demonstrate it can act with ambition, focus and urgency.”
Lawrence Herman, an international trade lawyer and expert on Canada-U.S. trade relations, said protectionist sentiment in the U.S. is reflected in Buy America “carveouts or exemptions” under the World Trade Agreement and the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement for areas like defense procurement or nuclear energy. Other exemptions favour American producers and workers in mass transportation and major infracture procurements, and often international trade deals “don’t give Canada any recourse.”
But because Canada will also want to subsidize “green energy” projects, as the U.S. has under its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Herman said Canada is unlikely “to mount a frontal assault against the Americans in this field as the EU is threatening to do.”
Still, he added, America’s Inflation Reduction Act “is clearly protectionist and discriminatory and poses serious threats to Canadian exports. Even with U.S. agreement that all North American-made vehicles qualify for EV tax credits, Canada has very real concerns about the U.S. protectionism,” he said.
“Whether anything can be worked out with Mr. Biden is doubtful. His admnistration has made it clear that Buy America is a fundamental part of its agenda, so there are large domestic political issues involved.”
This is a developing story.
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