Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden will aim to forge a North American partnership on climate change and discuss how to respond to an increasingly aggressive China at their first summit Tuesday.
The Prime Minister and U.S. President will unveil their U.S.-Canada Partnership Roadmap at the 4 p.m. virtual sit-down, a bid to reset the relationship between their countries after former president Donald Trump’s belligerence and isolationism. The roadmap will outline co-operation in six areas: the pandemic, climate change, the economy, diversity, security and international alliances.
“The Roadmap is a blueprint for our whole-of-government relationship, based on our shared values,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday. “Through the Roadmap, we will also advance our shared vision of prosperity, diversity, equity and justice for all our citizens.”
Climate co-operation will be the central focus of Mr. Biden’s first bilateral meeting since taking office last month, said two Canadian government sources with knowledge of the agenda.
Cabinet ministers will be instructed to start work on green-energy strategies, one senior Canadian official said. Mr. Trudeau’s aim is to drum up more cross-border business for Canadian companies specializing in renewables and green technologies, said the other government source, such as exporting hydroelectric power or building electric vehicles for the U.S. market.
The roadmap outlines a “high-level climate ministerial” group that will find ways the two countries can work together to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and more aggressively implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Mr. Trudeau will also push for U.S. leadership on China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the senior official said, a day after the House of Commons voted to label Beijing’s treatment of its predominantly Muslim Uyghur population a genocide.
The officials were granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail in order to learn the details of closed-door discussions.
The meeting, which is scheduled to last less than two hours, will also include Vice-President Kamala Harris, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and 15 other cabinet members between the two governments.
The roadmap also includes a plan to “modernize” NORAD in a bid to bolster continental defence, particularly in the Arctic, and a commitment to re-establish a cross-border crime forum to help police forces co-operate better. And it contains commitments reaffirming support for international bodies such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the WTO, NATO and the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.
The summit is an early attempt by Mr. Biden to make good on his promise to restore U.S. leadership in the world by mending fences with allies.
But that outreach has not prevented tensions between Washington and Ottawa from surfacing. Mr. Biden, for instance, has left in place Mr. Trump’s policy of not exporting U.S.-made vaccine supplies, leaving Canada with no alternative as its European supply has slowed to a trickle over the past month. And the President cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline project on his first day in office.
On Monday the White House would not commit to exempting Canada from protectionist Buy American rules. “He signed an executive order. We’re of course evaluating procurement components because of that, but no changes anticipated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked if Mr. Biden was willing to make exceptions for Canadian companies.
The Canadian government sources, however, said nothing has been settled on Buy American and it was not likely to be a significant topic of discussion Tuesday. Mr. Biden promised Mr. Trudeau during a telephone call last month that Canada would be consulted, the officials said, and that is still happening.
The President has announced that he will tighten the rules by requiring more U.S.-made content in government infrastructure projects, but his administration has yet to finalize the regulations spelling out how this will work.
Nor has Mr. Biden agreed to do more to secure the release of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. On that issue, Ms. Psaki said: “The Prime Minister will bring up whatever he would like to bring up.”
The two Canadians have been detained in China for more than two years, apparently in retaliation for Canada serving a U.S. arrest warrant on Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Mr. Trudeau is expected to ask the U.S. to do more to for their release, either by putting pressure on China or as part of a deal resolving the case against Ms. Meng, who is accused of bank fraud related to the violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
On Monday, the House of Commons passed a Conservative Party motion labelling China’s repression of Uyghurs a genocide. Mr. Trudeau and most of his cabinet skipped the vote in a bid to avoid angering Beijing.
The senior Canadian official stressed that Canadians should not expect significant announcements out of the meeting, noting that Mr. Biden has been President for little more than a month. But Ottawa is optimistic that Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Biden will make progress, as they are largely aligned ideologically.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, said the primary purpose of the meeting is to start working together on longer-term policy files rather than reaching any quick conclusions.
“The Biden administration is going to be preoccupied by domestic challenges. They’ll have difficulty carving out a lot of presidential time for foreign policy,” said Mr. Paris, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa. “That’s why it’s even more important for the two leaders to use this meeting as an opportunity to get the ball rolling on a number of different areas, so their respective ministers know they’ll have to be reporting back to the leaders on progress.”
The meeting is a substitute for the President’s first foreign trip, which traditionally entails visiting Canada. In 2017, Mr. Trump and Mr. Trudeau also altered the tradition because Mr. Trudeau feared that Mr. Trump would be greeted by protests in Ottawa; instead, the Prime Minister visited the White House the month after Mr. Trump took office.
The relationship was often acrimonious, with Mr. Trump often accusing Canada of cheating his country on trade. He slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and repeatedly threatened to end free trade. Mr. Trudeau retaliated with tariffs on a wide range of U.S. consumer goods. Mr. Trump also insulted Mr. Trudeau on Twitter and at rallies.
David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. during those years, said every issue required separate wrangling with Mr. Trump. With Mr. Biden, by contrast, building goodwill early on could pay dividends down the road, he said.
“Trump was totally transactional. Just because you did a deal on one thing one day, you didn’t get any credit notes on the next one. Every single thing was a transaction, and a transaction in which he had to be seen to win,” Mr. MacNaughton said in an interview. “Biden’s more relationship-focused: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. during the Obama years, said Mr. Trudeau’s talks with Mr. Biden should focus on four things: the pandemic, particularly the cross-border supply chain; Buy American; implementing the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. has just rejoined; and dealing with China.
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