(Trends Wide) — President Joe Biden, when reconvening a summit of North American leaders at the White House this Thursday, sought a cross-border agreement on migration, COVID-19 and economic integration, even as his guests expressed concern about what they say are protectionist trade policies. left over from Biden’s predecessor.
“We can meet all the challenges if we take the time to talk to each other,” Biden said when meeting with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. “As leaders, we share an innate understanding that our diversity is a tremendous strength.”
The main sticking points center on Biden’s proposed tax credits for US-made electric vehicles, which are included in the main climate and social spending plan currently making its way through Congress. Canada has argued that the proposed credits could violate the new North American trade agreement.
The White House takes a different view, and the issue was expected to come up during lengthy talks between leaders at Thursday’s meeting.
First summit of the “Three friends” since 2016
It is the first summit of its kind, known as the “Three Friends,” since 2016. It came a few weeks after Biden reopened the US land borders to fully vaccinated travelers, ending a shutdown of nearly 20 months that had caused tensions with both nations.
Before meeting alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Biden sat down with each leader individually to discuss bilateral issues. They did not hold a joint press conference, unlike the previous eight North American Leaders Summits held since 2005.
In welcoming Trudeau to the Oval Office, Biden praised what he called “one of the easiest relationships you can have as president of the United States, and one of the best.”
With López Obrador, Biden praised the “different and emerging relationship of the two nations, which is born of mutual respect.”
“Mr. President,” Biden continued, “we no longer use language like ‘Our friends from the South’. You are an equal, we are equal countries, and that’s what I like about you.”
The three leaders entered the talks in hopes of a more united front on economic and security issues as global competition from China and other regions increases. Supply chain disruptions have increased the desire of nations to create more resilient manufacturing at home.
The leaders planned to announce a new group focused on supply chain resilience, a commitment to reduce emissions such as methane, and reaffirm support for labor protections included in the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada signed during the Trump administration. .
Leaders also hope to rebuild relationships that had been dormant in the previous administration, including a high-level security dialogue.
Issues causing consternation among America’s neighbors
Yet as Biden works to promote the landmark infrastructure law he signed this week, some of the provisions included in a broader social and climate spending plan are causing consternation among America’s neighbors.
Specifically, the proposed EV tax credits included in the “Rebuild Better” plan would favor US manufacturers, raising concerns about protectionist policies. Trudeau and Mexican officials have raised concerns about the proposed tax credits.
Pressured by reporters, Biden said that, along with Trudeau, the two leaders “were going to talk about” tax incentives for electric vehicles, but noted that the provision “has not even been approved by the House yet.”
During a daily press conference at the White House, the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the proposed electric vehicle tax credit “is an opportunity to help consumers in this country.”
Migration was another central topic of discussion, although Biden’s advisers said beforehand that the focus would be on developing a regional approach to the issue and not specifically on the southern border of the United States.
One official said Biden hoped to “close arms” with Canada and Mexico to address displacement problems that they acknowledge will not diminish anytime soon. They hope to address root causes like a lack of job opportunities and the effects of climate change.
Other problems have caused some tension among neighbors, including Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which the state of Michigan wants to close, and Mexico’s overhaul of its power industry.
But leaders still showed a cooperative face when the “Three Friends” format was restored, including an announcement about donations of the Covid-19 vaccine. Earlier this year, the United States loaned doses to both countries, and this Thursday “returned” them by donating millions of vaccines to countries in the Western Hemisphere.
They also agreed to build on efforts to compile regional pandemic preparedness plans and discuss the best ways to distribute the covid-19 vaccine in Latin America.