WASHINGTON: North American leaders revive the three-way meeting after a break from the Trump era.
As president Joe Biden
, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
resume the tradition from North America’s leadership meeting on Thursday, the three allies face profound differences in migration, climate and trade.
There is “not much in common between them, at least in their vision of what they want for their countries,” said Kenneth Frankel, chairman of the Canadian Council for the Americas. “Not just what they want for their countries, but what they can deliver for their countries.”
Thursday’s White House meetings will be the first trilateral meeting of North American leaders since a June 2016 meeting of Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Pena Nieto in Ottawa. The rallies took a break during President Donald Trump’s feud with Trudeau and Nieto during his tenure.
Biden has made some progress in repairing relations with American neighbors after the turbulent Trump years. But many significant strains remain – and some new ones have emerged.
Trudeau arrived in Washington worried about buying US regulations in the president’s proposed $ 1.85 trillion social services plan. Mexico’s priorities ahead of the summit were to make concrete progress on immigration and fairer access to covid-19 vaccines.
The tradition of three-way meetings began when George W. Bush hosted Mexico’s Vicente Fox and Canada’s Paul Martin in 2005 for talks at his ranch in Waco, Texas.
Biden has already held separate virtual meetings with Trudeau in February and Lopez Obrador in March.
Biden will meet separately with Trudeau and Lopez Obrador again on Thursday before the leaders hold a trilateral session in the middle of what is a big week for the US president. Biden signed a $ 1 trillion infrastructure bill in law on Monday, held a virtual summit with China’s Xi Jinping that night, and traveled for the next two days to promote regulations in the big spending deal. He is also trying to push through his plan for social services and climate spending.
There is growing concern in Canada about a provision in the spending plan that would offer U.S. consumers a $ 7,500 tax deduction if they buy electric vehicles by 2026. The following year, only purchases of electric vehicles made in the United States would qualify for the credit. The basic credit would increase by USD 4,500 if the vehicle was manufactured in a US factory that operates under a union-negotiated collective agreement.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called the incentive a clear breach of an updated trade agreement between the three countries aimed at protecting American jobs and products manufactured in North America. Trudeau, Freeland and other Canadian ministers met with U.S. officials on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. And Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said she raised concerns about the provision of electric vehicles with Foreign Minister Antony Blinken last week.
Freeland said that for Canada, “job one here in the US this week is to really make our US counterparts aware of the extent to which their current approach to this issue is a problem for Canada and to really explain to them how they have phrased this. incentives really, really have the potential to become the dominant issue in our bilateral relationship. ”
White House spokesman Chris Meagher said tax incentives for electric cars are an important part of Biden’s efforts to link efforts to reduce climate emissions with job creation in the United States
The United States and Canada have meanwhile expressed frustration that Lopez Obrador has failed to join the global effort to reduce climate emissions. The Mexican president skipped this month’s UN climate summit in Glasgow.
Lopez Obrador’s government, for its part, wants the promised US development funds for the countries of the northern triangle in Central America to be strengthened. The Mexican leader continues to pressure the United States to fund an expansion of its tree planting program to Central America.
Mexico has worked with the United States – under both Trump and Biden – to control migrant flows and help return migrants to Central America. The two countries are still negotiating the court-ordered reinstatement of a Trump-era policy known as Remain in Mexico, which forced asylum seekers to wait out their US asylum process in Mexico.
Lopez Obrador has also on several occasions mentioned his interest in the US government expanding its temporary work visa program so that more Mexicans and Central Americans can meet the demand for labor in the United States. Temporary workers, in turn, can access the higher wages they seek in the United States without becoming part of the illegal immigration flow.
When he arrived in Washington on Wednesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said his government would focus on three issues: the pandemic, economic integration and immigration. Regarding immigration, Ebrard said Mexico would seek support for two of Lopez Obrador’s distinctive social programs – tree planting and youth employment – to reduce migration’s push factors.
Ken Salazar, the US ambassador to Mexico, recently expressed “serious concern” over the Mexican government’s attempts to restrict competition in the electric power sector.
Trudeau and Biden are also expected to discuss the future of an oil pipeline that crosses some of the major lakes and is the subject of increasing tension over whether to close it. Biden is caught in a battle over Enbridge’s Line 5, a key segment of a pipeline network that transports Canadian oil across the US Midwest.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and Biden ally, has demanded the closure of the 68-year-old line because of the risk of a catastrophic breach along a 40-mile (6.4 km) section of the Mackinac Strait that connects Lake Huron. and Lake Michigan. The Biden administration has not taken a position but is under increasing pressure to do so.
Last month, Canada invoked a 1977 treaty guaranteeing the smooth passage of oil between the two nations.