The Trudeau government is hoping to push Joe Biden on his Buy America policies and for progress on the issue of irregular migration from the U.S. into Canada in the President’s first official visit this week.
According to two government sources, Ottawa is hoping that Canada can be included in renewed Buy America provisions to ensure Canadian exporters still have access to the U.S. market. A third source said Canada hopes to make the case for reciprocal export access – just as it has with past Buy America policies.
The President is in turn expected to focus his asks of Canada on boosting defence spending and playing a bigger role to bring stability in crisis-torn Haiti.
The hope is for the two leaders to make progress on the transition to a clean economy and trade issues, with the potential for an announcement on defence as well, one of the sources said. However, they cautioned the agenda hasn’t yet been finalized.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the agenda.
Mr. Biden is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon, according to several sources. He, First Lady Jill Biden, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau are expected to have a private gathering that evening.
Friday is slated as the official day of working meetings, the sources said, with the two leaders first meeting among a smaller group and then in a larger group that will include more ministers and officials. The two governments are expected to hammer out progress on their key bilateral issues in the larger meeting.
Mr. Biden will also give a speech to Parliament, hold a news conference with the Prime Minister, and on Friday evening the two will attend a dinner with hundreds of guests in Ottawa, the sources said.
Ms. Grégoire Trudeau and Dr. Biden will take part in some of the events with Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau, and are also expected to hold separate appearances as well, one source said.
With the leaders meeting just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a government source said the goal is for the meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau to underscore the economic advantage of stable democracies. The leaders also want to show that allies are able to address bilateral issues while keeping a united front on the world stage when it comes to crises like Ukraine.
In Washington on Monday, U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a briefing that the President’s focus is the bilateral relationship.
“The President is very excited about doing this,” he told reporters. “He has a terrific relationship with Prime Minister Trudeau – warm and friendly and productive.”
While it is Mr. Biden’s first trip to Canada as President, he already has a long-standing relationship with Mr. Trudeau dating back to his time as vice-president. He was last in Ottawa in December, 2016. Mr. Kirby said the leaders have a lot on their agenda from “strengthening NORAD, to climate change to, obviously, migration challenges, economic, and trade.”
Mr. Trudeau has come under increasing pressure from the Quebec government to end the irregular migration at Roxham Road. Last year almost 40,000 people arrived through the unofficial border crossing.
One government source said Ottawa believes the solution is to extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire Canada-U.S. border rather than only at official crossings, which has meant asylum seekers can get around the deal by crossing irregularly. But the sources were cautious to play down chances for a fix at Roxham Road this week.
While the numbers of irregular migrants Canada is dealing with has surged in recent years it is still a small number compared to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who cross into the United States at its southern border each month.
Another key question for Canada is how it responds to the US$369-billion spending package brought in by the Biden administration to spur the transition to the clean economy. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Ottawa will roll out more initiatives to ensure Canadian industries can remain competitive in next week’s budget.
Sources noted that Canada has previously negotiated exemptions to protectionist U.S. policies and both countries are aligned on the end goal: spurring a clean economy.
Ms. Freeland highlighted the role Canada can play with the U.S. economy in a prebudget speech Monday.
“Our allies are moving quickly to friendshore their economies and build their critical supply chains through democracies like Canada’s,” she said. “From energy to critical minerals, Canadian workers can be the ones to provide our allies with the resources they need.”
Another key focus of the talks is also expected to be Canada’s spending to upgrade North America’s dated air defences. One government source said the White House wants the federal government to spend more, faster to modernize NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command). But Canada’s position is that Ottawa has already announced significant investments in defence spending.
Last year the federal government pledged $4.9-billion over six years to upgrade air defences, to address the growing threat posed by hypersonic missiles and advanced cruise missile technology developed by China and Russia. However, it has not yet disclosed how quickly that money will roll out.
With a report from Adrian Morrow in Washington