Friday, November 26, 2021

Biden and Trudeau to Discuss Electric Vehicle Dispute at Summit



President Joe Biden kicked off trilateral diplomacy with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Thursday, celebrating the return of nearly annual summits that had been dormant during the Trump years. But there were still many disagreements over trade, immigration and other issues.

Biden first met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, describing relations between the two countries as one of the easiest at the start of his presidency.

But when Biden and Trudeau sat down to the negotiating table, the president also confirmed that the two leaders had to discuss their differences over proposed tax breaks for electric vehicles in his massive social service and climate bill that are of concern in Ottawa.

“We’re going to talk about it,” Biden said. “It hasn’t even passed in the House yet.”

Biden later met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador and the three leaders met together. Trudeau and Lopez Obrador also met separately with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Trump had an icy relationship with López Obrador’s predecessor, which has led Enrique Peña Nieto to never publicly state that Mexico would not pay for a wall on the southern border of the United States.

But Lopez Obrador appears to have reached an understanding with Trump on one issue: Mexico has slowed the flow of Central American migrants trying to reach the US border, and Trump has often seemed to turn a blind eye to virtually every aspect of this complicated relationship.

Lopez Obrador spoke kindly to Biden as they appeared in front of the cameras at the start of their meeting on Thursday. The two leaders discussed Mexico’s relationship with the United States under Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, before portraits of both, which Biden displayed prominently in the Oval Office.

The President of Mexico said that Biden respects his government, which, he noted, was not always a given in the long history of the two countries.

“From the first time we spoke on the phone with the president already in power, he mentioned that we would not be seen as the backyard of the United States, and we are grateful for that,” Lopez Obrador said of Biden.

Canada, meanwhile, is concerned about Biden’s spending stance, which would give US consumers a $ 7,500 tax credit if they buy electric vehicles by 2026. Next year, only electric vehicle purchases made in the US will be eligible for the loan. The base loan would increase by $ 4,500 if the car was manufactured in a US plant that operates under a union collective bargaining agreement.

The union regulation has met with opposition from some non-union organizations and legislators. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden is “pretty much committed to the bill to provide well-paid labor unions.”

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Christia Freeland on Wednesday called the incentive a clear violation of an updated trade agreement between the three countries aimed at protecting U.S. jobs and products made in North America.

Freeland said that for Canada: “The first challenge here in the US this week is to really tell our American colleagues to what extent their current approach to this issue is a problem for Canada, and to really explain to them, that the way they formulated this incentive can indeed really become the dominant issue in our bilateral relations. “

As Biden, Trudeau and Lopez Obrador renew the tradition of the North American Leaders’ Summit, the three allies also face deep divisions over migration and climate issues.

“They don’t have much in common, at least in their vision of what they want for their countries,” said Kenneth Frankel, president of the Council for the Americas of Canada. “Not only what they want for their countries, but what they can provide to their countries.”

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Thursday’s White House meetings mark the first trilateral meeting of North American leaders since Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto met in Ottawa in June 2016. The meetings took a break under Trump, who feuded with Trudeau and Nieto during his tenure.

Biden has made some progress in forging relations with US neighbors after Trump’s turbulent years. But many essential strains remain – and new ones have emerged.

Mexico’s priorities ahead of the summit were concrete gains in immigration and fairer access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The tradition of trilateral meetings began when George W. Bush hosted Mexican Vicente Fox and Paul Martin from Canada in 2005 for talks at his ranch in Waco, Texas.

Biden has already had separate virtual meetings with Trudeau in February and Lopez Obrador in March.

Meanwhile, the US and Canada have expressed disappointment that Lopez Obrador was unable to participate in global efforts to reduce emissions. The Mexican president missed the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow this month.

López Obrador’s government, for its part, wants to see the pledged US development funds for Central America’s Northern Triangle be strengthened. The Mexican leader continues to pressure the US to fund an expansion of his tree-planting program in Central America.

Mexico has worked with the United States – under both Trump and Biden – to control migrant flows and help return migrants to Central America. Both countries are still negotiating a court-ordered re-enactment of the Trump-era policy known as “Stay in Mexico,” which forced asylum seekers to postpone the US asylum process in Mexico. Psaki said the policy was not expected to be the main topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting.

Lopez Obrador has also repeatedly spoken of his interest in the US government expanding its temporary work visa program so that more Mexicans and Central Americans can meet the demand for US labor. Temporary workers, in turn, could have access to the higher wages they were looking for. The United States without becoming part of the flow of illegal immigration.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Lopez Obrador will focus on three issues: pandemic, economic integration and immigration. On the immigration side, Ebrard said Mexico will try to secure support for two of López Obrador’s signature social programs – tree planting and youth employment opportunities – to reduce the drivers of migration.

Ken Salazar, the US ambassador to Mexico, recently expressed “serious concern” about the Mexican government’s attempts to limit competition in the electricity sector.

Trudeau and Biden are also expected to discuss the future of the pipeline, which crosses part of the Great Lakes, and is the subject of growing tensions over whether it should be closed. Biden is involved in the Battle of Enbridge Line 5, a key segment of the pipeline network that transports Canadian oil across the US Midwest.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and Biden’s ally, has demanded that the 68-year line be closed due to the potential for a catastrophic rupture on a 4-mile (6.4 km) stretch in Mackinac Sound, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The Biden administration has not taken a stand, but is under increasing pressure to do so.

Canada last month cited a 1977 treaty that guarantees unhindered oil transit between the two countries.


Associated Press author Colleen Long of Washington contributed to this report.

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