U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Nov. 18 in Washington in an effort to chart a new path to spur economic growth and continental competitiveness, The White House announced Wednesday.
This is the first get-together of the leaders of North America since 2016 when Mr. Trudeau played host to former presidents Barack Obama and Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico.
“Strengthening our partnership is essential to our ability to build back better, to revitalize our leadership, and to respond to a widening range of regional and global challenges,” the White House said in a statement.
The agenda of the three leaders include combatting COVID-19, competitiveness and immigration and climate change.
“During the Summit, the United States, Mexico, and Canada will reaffirm their strong ties and integration while also charting a new path for collaboration on ending the COVID-19 pandemic and advancing health security; competitiveness and equitable growth, to include climate change; and a regional vision for migration,” the White House added.
Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, said the in-person meeting is an opportunity for the Prime Minister and his Mexican counterpart to spell out their concerns about the President’s protectionist policies.
“Buy American” policies and the subsidizing of electric vehicles that are manufactured in the the U.S. are sure to be raised under the competitiveness agenda, he said.
Ottawa has warned that U.S. tax credits for electric vehicles could harm the highly integrated continental auto industry. The Canadian government has also objected to Mr. Biden’s Buy American program and proposed rules that would require more of a manufactured good’s components to originate from U.S.-based factories.
“This is hopefully an opportunity for the Americans to demonstrate that they are not withdrawing into some kind of protective bubble,” Mr. MacNaughton said.
Mr. Biden can be expected to raise U.S. concerns about Mexico’s increasingly nationalistic energy policies and immigration on the southern U.S. border as well as Canada’s inaction on defence and security issues, he said.
“This is not going to be three amigos getting together and having a group hug and talking about how much they love each other,” Mr. MacNaughton added. “There are enough substantive issues where there are differences of opinion that hopefully they can actually make some progress on.”
Fen Osler Hampson, Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said the summit is important because there hasn’t been a meeting of the three North American leaders in more than five years.
Donald Trump pursued an “America First” policy and had no desire to hold North American leader summits, known as the Three Amigos, when he became president in 2017.
Prof. Hampson said Mr. Trudeau and his Mexican counterpart have lots to complain about because the Biden administration has not treated either country very well.
He said the White House has not acted to help Canada in its dispute with Michigan over Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline from Canada. Mexico has reason to be upset with the administration’s tough Trump-like approach at the Mexican border, he said.
Prof. Hampson said the Prime Minister should make the point in Washington that if the President wants to challenge China’s growing economic and military power, then he should be working with his North American neighbours to build a stronger continental economy.
“The Americans are concerned about a strong China, then their best defence economically is a strong fortress North America where the Americans are not giving their Canadian and Mexican neighbours the short end of the stick,” he said. “Under Biden, instead of angry Trump-style tweets, it has been warm hugs with a smile but not much else.”
While the Prime Minister and Mr. Biden have a warm relationship, as do many cabinet ministers with their U.S. counterparts, the new U.S. administration hasn’t been particularly helpful on issues such as the Line 5, softwood lumber and protectionist trade measures being discussed by Democrats in Congress.
The leaders of the three North American countries are bound together by the United States-Mexico-Canada free-trade agreement that governs about US$1.5-trillion in trade annually.
The Biden administration wants stricter interpretation of duty-free rules for cars shipped across the border that were agreed under the renegotiated USMCA in 2019. The Trump administration insisted on 75-per-cent North American content for core auto parts, up 62.5 per cent under the previous North American free-trade agreement.
The U.S. is now looking to push the calculation to 100 per cent under pressure from labour unions.
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