President Joe Biden will address Parliament later this month as part of a two-day visit to Ottawa in which North American defence, support for Ukraine, and the clean-economy transition will be the focus of talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The White House announced Thursday that Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will be in the capital on March 23 and 24. It’s the pair’s first visit to Canada since the January, 2021 inauguration.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the President and Prime Minister will discuss defence co-operation and modernizing NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defence Command).
Also on the agenda will be supply chain resilience, climate change and accelerating the transition to a clean economy. Included in that will be critical minerals, which a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office described as the “building blocks” for a net-zero economy.
The announcement from Mr. Trudeau’s office also said the leaders will advance their “shared priorities” in the Indo-Pacific region, including national security and democratic values. In November, his government released its long-delayed Indo-Pacific strategy, which included an updated approach to China and was keenly awaited by the White House.
In a brief statement, Mr. Trudeau said he looked forward to welcoming Mr. Biden to Canada.
“As we face increasing global uncertainty, we will continue working together as we defend our continent and our shared values, create more opportunities for people and businesses on both sides of the border, and build strong economies,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Biden will visit ahead of the federal budget release, which is expected to focus heavily on Ottawa’s response to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. That law offers companies lucrative financial incentives aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The risk that it woos investment away from Canada is a key concern for Ottawa, and the government has said the budget will include new spending to ensure Canadian industry can compete.
The White House also said the two leaders would discuss the opioid crisis and irregular migration. An increase in migrants crossing into Canada, between Quebec and New York at Roxham Road, is a major point of contention for Premier François Legault.
The Safe Third Country Agreement prevents migrants from the U.S. from making Canadian refugee claims at official border crossings, leading asylum seekers to cross irregularly. Mr. Trudeau has vowed to renegotiate the agreement so that it applies to the entire border. The White House, however, has shown little interest in renegotiating the deal and the communiqués from the two countries do not mention the agreement.
Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman said in an interview with The Globe and Mail from Aspen, Colo., that Mr. Biden has “reoriented” the relationship after four chaotic and disruptive years under former president Donald Trump. Just because issues like relatively low defence spending (compared with NATO allies) and Roxham Road aren’t publicly listed as agenda items, he said he expects the leaders to discuss much more.
“Behind closed doors, there are opportunities for both countries to raise issues that may be best conducted President to Prime Minister,” he said. “Don’t assume that the only things being discussed are the things that are announced.”
Overall, he said the two governments are the “most aligned” they’ve been since the Obama administration.
“The Canada-U.S. relationship is perhaps the most important bilateral relationship that the U.S. or Canada has with any other country in the world,” Mr. Heyman said.
Canadian-American Business Council CEO Scotty Greenwood said the bilateral meeting represents an important opportunity for the two countries and “focuses the attention” of their vast bureaucracies on key issues. She said the focus of the trip will become much clearer once the White House announces which officials and cabinet secretaries will travel with Mr. Biden.
Ms. Greenwood said the meeting presents an important opportunity for the two countries to figure out how to accelerate the processing and recycling of critical minerals – a key priority to ensure allies can diversify their sourcing away from countries like China.
She said she is also looking for whether the trip will open up a chance to address challenges such as with the flow of goods and people across the border. During the pandemic, Ms. Greenwood said the countries’ border policies diverged and it hasn’t yet been resolved.