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U.S. President Joe Biden stands next to Mary Simon, Governor-General of Canada as he and First Lady Jill Biden are greeted upon arrival at Ottawa International Airport in March 23.MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Justin Trudeau is up to his eyeballs in political controversy and the House of Commons has just voted in favour of a public inquiry on Chinese interference in Canadian elections that he has repeatedly resisted.

If there’s one thing he needs, it is to be able to chalk up a success with U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit this week.

The Conservative opposition leader, Pierre Poilievre, has called for Mr. Trudeau to get wins on a file where there will be no victory – Mr. Biden isn’t going to immediately settle the latest round of softwood lumber trade disputes.

This short visit isn’t going to bring sweeping change. But there are things that matter up for discussion – and Mr. Trudeau will very much care about the outcomes. Here are three that will mark whether the host can count Mr. Biden’s first visit to Canada as U.S. President as a success.

Roxham Road

It’s already clear that a deal is being done to apply a U.S.-Canada border agreement to irregular crossings like the one in Quebec’s Roxham Road – and that’s a big deal for Mr. Trudeau and his Liberals.

Cabinet ministers from Quebec could barely contain their glee over an expected deal that would resolve one of their most damaging political weaknesses. Quebec Premier François Legault had been piling on the pressure; Mr. Poilievre had piled on the criticism of the government’s inability to stop tens of thousands of irregular border crossings.

The Americans had for years resisted changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement, even when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power. Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals couldn’t interest Donald Trump in a deal, and pressed the Biden administration for many months.

A deal would effectively apply the Safe Third Country Agreement along the entire border, rather than only at official border crossings, so that asylum seekers crossing at Roxham Road could be returned to the United States to make their claim there.

Mr. Biden’s administration had some recent political motivation to agree. Mr. Biden wants countries in the Americas, such as Canada, to accept more of the migrants seeking to enter the United States at the Mexican border – and an agreement on Roxham Road will be accompanied by a Canadian agreement to find “legal pathways” for 15,000 migrants to come to Canada.

NORAD and defence

U.S. presidents often ask Canada to increase its defence spending, but this time Mr. Trudeau has to reassure Mr. Biden that Canada is still a serious ally.

Mr. Trudeau rebuffed requests from the Biden administration for Canada to lead a military mission to Haiti – and though the PM can offer good reasons to avoid such a role, he also has to admit the Canadian Armed Forces don’t have the resources right now to do it.

But Mr. Biden comes to Ottawa with another defence matter on his mind: pushing Canada to move faster on modernizing NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canada command that defends North American airspace.

If there’s one military matter that is at the heart of Canada’s interests, both for security and for sovereignty, it is pulling its weight in continental defence.

Canada announced last year it would put $4.9-billion into NORAD modernization, but the U.S. wants Ottawa to do more, and faster. A U.S. official said Thursday that the country is pleased that Canada is purchasing 88 F-35 fighter jets, but it also needs to upgrade northern infrastructure such as hangers and runways.

Mr. Trudeau needs to ensure that the U.S. President feels like he still has an ally on the continent – and success means hearing Mr. Biden say so.

North American economy and the Inflation Reduction Act

The biggest question hanging over the federal budget that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is going to table next Tuesday is how Ottawa will respond to Mr. Biden’s industrial strategy.

The U.S. President launched a massive subsidy war in green industry with his Inflation Reduction Act, sparking fears that it will lure investment away from other countries, especially Canada.

Mr. Trudeau cannot stop that, but he’ll want to hear Mr. Biden say he is committed to an integrated North American economy – that he’ll work to ensure the U.S. act is implemented in the way that respects that, and that Buy American measures won’t disrupt North American trade.

Both leaders will want to talk about the economy, and greening the economy, but Canada’s nervous business community wants evidence that the Biden administration sees Canada as part of a North American economic bloc.

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