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Canada At a tense moment for Canada-U.S. relations, Trudeau travels to D.C. for trilateral talks

11:50  14 november  2021
11:50  14 november  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, sits beside U.S. President Joe Biden at an event at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. © Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, sits beside U.S. President Joe Biden at an event at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will travel to Washington this week for the first Three Amigos summit in five years — a trilateral meeting with U.S. and Mexican leaders that has been dismissed in the past as high on symbolism and low on substance.

The one-day summit comes at a challenging time for the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The election of U.S. President Joe Biden was celebrated by many in Canada as the dawn of a new era in bilateral relations after the fractious four-year term of his predecessor, Donald Trump. During his campaign, Biden promised a return to "normalcy" and better relations with U.S. allies; the revival of the once-dormant Three Amigos gathering is a sign that the Trump-era froideur is over.

A list of Canada-U.S. irritants as Thursday's trilateral Three Amigos summit nears

  A list of Canada-U.S. irritants as Thursday's trilateral Three Amigos summit nears WASHINGTON — As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets Thursday with U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, observers say Canada has a lot to complain about. Here are some of the issues that have been chafing north of the border: Pipelines: In addition to Keystone XL, the Biden administration has shown little enthusiasm for Line 3 and Line 5, two key cross-border upgrade projects spearheaded by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. that have been the targets of widespread protests and legal action in the U.S.

But on Biden's watch, a number of new irritants have emerged. Biden, more beholden to progressive elements in the Democratic Party than past presidents, has made climate policy a priority to appeal to green activists. Canada's energy sector is paying a price.

Canada battling U.S. protectionism, anti-oil agenda

In the first week of his presidency, Biden cancelled permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a multi-billion dollar blow to Alberta's oilpatch.

He has done little to stop Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, from trying to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline — a crucial artery that supplies oil products and natural gas to power huge portions of the Canadian economy. Experts agree its closure would be devastating to Canada — a threat to the continued operation of Toronto's Pearson International Airport and the free flow of fossil fuels to other critical industries.

PM pushes critical minerals, continental supply chain ahead of Three Amigos summit

  PM pushes critical minerals, continental supply chain ahead of Three Amigos summit DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Canada and the United States are not as far apart on tax credits for electric vehicles as it might seem, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday on the eve of a key meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden. Both countries are pursuing fundamentally the same goal, Freeland said: encouraging the move away from gas-powered internal combustion engines in an effort to slow the impact of climate change around the world, while simultaneously encouraging post-pandemic economic growth.

A spokesperson for Biden said this week the White House is awaiting a review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before deciding whether to wade into a debate over the future of the controversial pipeline. Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan — who served as the natural resources minister until recently — has said the line's continued operation is "non-negotiable."

Lauren Sargent takes part in a protest before the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline public information session in Holt, Michigan on July 6, 2017. © Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP Photo Lauren Sargent takes part in a protest before the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline public information session in Holt, Michigan on July 6, 2017.

While Canada lifted land border restrictions on non-essential travel this summer, the Biden administration only did away with its months-long ban on cross-border travel last week. Non-stop flights from Moscow and Beijing were arriving at New York's JFK airport while fully vaccinated Canadian travellers were turned away at land crossings in the states of Maine, New York and Washington — disrupting business, tourism and family reunification.

PM pushes critical minerals, continental supply chain ahead of Three Amigos summit

  PM pushes critical minerals, continental supply chain ahead of Three Amigos summit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says an update to the rules for mandatory departure PCR tests will be announced in the coming days.

Legislation before the Democratic congress also threatens trade relations between two of the world's largest economies. Congress has drafted a bill, the Build Back Better Act, that would offer sizeable tax credits worth up to $12,500 to the buyers of new electric vehicles — as long as those cars and trucks are manufactured in the U.S.

That tax measure would be a devastating development for the Canadian automotive sector, which is trying to attract new investment as the industry transitions away from internal combustion engines.

A congressional staffer holds a copy of H.R.5376, the Build Back Better Act. © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo A congressional staffer holds a copy of H.R.5376, the Build Back Better Act.

Biden's massive infrastructure bill, which he is set to sign into law tomorrow, is littered with Buy America provisions that could leave Canadian companies out of the competition for contracts potentially worth billions of dollars in government business — provisions that undermine the new NAFTA signed by the three countries just a few years ago.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has identified this protectionist push as a significant problem but Canadian protests have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Trudeau to push back against protectionist U.S. trade policies at Three Amigos summit

  Trudeau to push back against protectionist U.S. trade policies at Three Amigos summit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brief trip to Washington culminates today with the first Three Amigos summit in more than five years.The trilateral meeting between the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico — officially known as the North American Leaders' Summit — is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. ET at the White House.

David MacNaughton, who served as Canada's ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump administration, said that while the former reality TV star-turned-politician generated a tremendous amount of "unpredictability" in the Oval Office, it was still possible for Canada to advance its agenda because Trump "didn't have any particular ideology. In fact, he had no real ideology at all."

"The problem you face with President Biden is you have some really comforting words about allies but you have, within his own party, and his own domestic agenda, some real ideologically protectionist elements which are going to cause problems in terms of our mutual economic interest. We're already seeing that," MacNaughton told CBC News.

"I think the problem with the Democrats is that a lot of them just don't really believe in global trade and really would prefer everything be done in the U.S. It's always better when you have somebody who's sympatico [rather] than someone who's constantly railing against you, but it doesn't mean it's going to be easy."

The Three Amigos gathering, formally known as the North American Leaders' Summit, is not the best forum to address Canada-U.S. bilateral issues because of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's presence, said Christopher Sands, director of the Wilson Center's Canada Institute.

North American leaders to talk vaccine sharing, migration woes at summit

  North American leaders to talk vaccine sharing, migration woes at summit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to Washington Wednesday for the first so-called "Three Amigos" Summit, a meeting between the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico. As David Akin reports, one of the chief objectives for both Canada and Mexico will be to turn back the rising tide of protectionism in Joe Biden's America.

The Mexican leader is not particularly concerned about the future of Windsor, Ont. as a centre for car manufacturing, or if a major source of Quebec's national gas supply is in danger of going offline, he said.

"It's like, 'Yeah, we want to talk to you but not with the other guy in the room,'" Sands told CBC News. "Canada feels like an afterthought.

"But it's the Americans trying to economize the president's time and focus because there are some similarities on things like borders, North American competitiveness and economic issues with both Canada and Mexico. Just for efficiency, they're grouped together. It's the way the Americans think."

The only major trilateral accomplishment of Trump's term — the renegotiation of the new NAFTA, the Canada-U.S.-Mexican Agreement (CUSMA) — was done without formal Three Amigos summits, Sands said.

But despite the format's shortcomings, it's still a chance to get these leaders around a table talking about issues of common interest, he added.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, Trudeau will use the short time he has before Biden to press these bilateral concerns and "discuss shared priorities and find North American solutions to the challenges of today and tomorrow."

Coming off the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Trudeau is also eager to discuss the environment as the world struggles to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. López Obrador skipped COP26 and Mexico, a major oil producer, has rebuffed renewable energy projects.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rings the bell as he gives the annual independence shout from the balcony of the National Palace to kick off subdued mid-pandemic Independence Day celebrations at the Zocalo in Mexico City on Sept. 15, 2021. © Fernando Llano/AP Photo Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rings the bell as he gives the annual independence shout from the balcony of the National Palace to kick off subdued mid-pandemic Independence Day celebrations at the Zocalo in Mexico City on Sept. 15, 2021.

"Our countries are committed to providing a better future for our people, including creating more middle class jobs, building a cleaner economy and tackling climate change and finishing the fight against COVID-19. I look forward to meeting with my counterparts to discuss a new path for our partnerships at a time when the world is facing complex global challenges," Trudeau said in a media statement.

López Obrador keen to engage Trudeau on Indigenous reconciliation challenges

  López Obrador keen to engage Trudeau on Indigenous reconciliation challenges OTTAWA — President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is keen to engage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on finding ways to heal relations with Indigenous Peoples in his country, says the Mexican ambassador to Canada. López Obrador says Canada and Mexico can share experiences on healing their respective relationships with Indigenous Peoples, Juan José Gómez Camacho, the Mexican envoy, told The Canadian Press. "Something that Prime Minister López Obrador will be keen to share with Prime Minister Trudeau is all the social policies that he has been putting forward to bring Indigenous people to the centre of government efforts," Gómez Camacho said in an interview from Mexic

In its own media statement, the White House pitched the summit as a way to "strengthen" the "partnership" and "revitalize our leadership and respond to a widening range of regional and global challenges." The statement says that Biden — doubtless with an eye on domestic politics — will also use the meeting to discuss "a regional vision for migration," an issue of little relevance to Canada.

The first formal North American leaders' meeting was held in 1956 when then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower gathered his continental counterparts — Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent and the Mexican leader, Adolfo Ruiz Cortines — as the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union was starting to heat up.

Canadian ambivalence

Canadian ambivalence at the time about this trilateral dynamic was reflected in a piece in the Chicago Tribune.

On the occasion of the first-ever Canada-U.S.-Mexico leaders' meeting in West Virginia, the newspaper reported that "Canada traditionally has kept aloof from Latin America in trade matters, in the belief that it can deal better with Washington on a bilateral basis."

The focus of the 1956 summit was on how the three countries could "develop democratic processes" at a time when communism was on the march in the developing world. The U.S., seen by some as an imperial power, wanted to recruit "smaller countries like Canada and Mexico in offering a helping hand to countries that have been determined to remain neutral in the 'Cold War,'" according to an account of the summit in the New York Times.

The leaders' summits were held sporadically in the decades that followed. U.S. President George W. Bush created the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in 2005, a regular forum for the three countries to meet to cooperate on security and economic issues.

The SPP was the subject of much criticism: left-wing groups in Canada said they feared it would be the first step toward a North American union, while right-wing activists in the U.S. fretted about a possible spike in the number of people crossing between the three countries. Bush's successor, President Barack Obama, scrapped the SPP but kept the leaders' meeting portion.

"They've always been more important to the Americans. Stephen Harper didn't put much of a priority on this. Canada skipped hosting it a couple times," Sands said. "Now, the Biden administration has put great stock in the return to normal."

"It's not a longstanding tradition but having civilized conversations with your neighbours is pretty normal compared to what we've seen recently. Is it absolutely necessary? No, we can live without them, we did for a long time and we did just recently. But I think what makes this important is the U.S. signalling it wants to have this conversation and it's bringing it together on relatively short notice."

Just as Eisenhower gathered his Canadian and Mexican counterparts while the Soviet Union was flexing its muscles in the 1950s, Biden is hosting this year's summit as the Western world grows increasingly concerned about China. Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping before Trudeau and Lopez Obrador arrive in D.C.

"It's pretty clear North America will have to work together to counter its competitor in China and counter the threats in China," said Scotty Greenwood, a former U.S. diplomat and an expert in Canada-U.S. relations at Crestview Strategy.

As the U.S. shifts its supply chain away from Asia and an increasingly hostile China, Canada and Mexico will become "extremely relevant" to the American economy, she said.

Mexico's low-wage labour and Canada's critical minerals and natural resources could help the U.S. "decouple" from its continued reliance on China, she said. "I think the outline is there for really important North American cooperation."

A list of Canada-U.S. irritants as Thursday's trilateral Three Amigos summit nears .
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets Thursday with U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, observers say Canada has a lot to complain about. Here are some of the issues that have been chafing north of the border: Pipelines: In addition to Keystone XL, the Biden administration has shown little enthusiasm for Line 3 and Line 5, two key cross-border upgrade projects spearheaded by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. that have been the targets of widespread protests and legal action in the U.S.

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