Joe Biden Finally Gets to Canada — What’s on the Agenda?
Author: Greg Valliere
March 24, 2023
THE FIRST ISSUE, CLOSE TO RESOLUTION, will be an agreement this morning on migration, which has stirred a political hornets nest for Trudeau in Quebec as refugees stream north, across the border. The agreement will allow Canada to turn away migrants from unofficial crossing points through New York state and Vermont; about 40,000 asylum seekers entered last year.
AS PART OF THE DEAL Canada will announce plans to welcome an additional 15,000 Central American migrants over the next year through legal pathways. As Biden surely knows, immigration is a politically explosive issue, especially since the two countries share a 5,525-mile border. Today’s agreement should be a modest plus for Biden and Trudeau.
SEVERAL OTHER THORNY ISSUES: While the two countries are strong supporters of Ukraine, there’s been grumbling in Washington about Canada’s defense spending, which is about 1.3% of its GDP; NATO wants its members to be at 2%. Canada will pledge upgrades to NORAD, the defense system in the far north that attracted attention after the Chinese balloon incident. But getting Ottawa to spend 2% of GDP on defense will be an uphill battle.
ANOTHER THORNY ISSUE IS HAITI, where gang violence has spun out of control. Despite calls for intervention by the U.S. and Canada, neither Biden nor Trudeau want to send troops to the war-torn country, which is teetering on the verge of anarchy. Some additional funding for training Haitian police is likely.
FRICTION ON ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Biden’s “Buy American” mantra has ruffled feathers in Canada and Western Europe, especially over U.S. subsidies for batteries in electric vehicles. The leaders are expected to discuss tapping critical Canadian minerals that will enable the production of electric vehicles, but “Buy American” will continue to be an issue, especially with Europe.
OTHER TRADE ISSUES, involving timber and dairy products, will be on the agenda this morning, and the wording of anything relating to climate change may be awkward in light of Biden’s remarkable pivot on drilling in Alaska.
DESPITE CONFLICTS, TODAY WILL BE WARM AND FUZZY: Biden will address the Canadian Parliament, the two leaders will hold a joint press conference, and there will be a gala dinner tonight. The main take-away will be rock-solid unity between these two close allies on the Ukrainian war — and their strong antipathy toward Russia and China.
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