by Aamer Madani, Rob Gillies and Maria Varza
WASHINGTON (AP) – Reviving a three-way North American summit after a five-year break, President Joe Biden joined the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Thursday to announce that their nations can work together and can prove that “democracy can deliver” even they can sort out differences on key issues
But as Biden, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, spoke of their mutual respect, the three leaders found themselves dealing with new tensions over trade, immigration, climate change and other matters. also found.
“We can all meet challenges if we work together and take the time to talk to each other,” said Biden, who hosted North American neighbors in the decade before President Donald Trump’s arrival. for the office.
It was a day of utter diplomacy, requiring careful choreography as Trudeau and López Obrador each separated with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris before gathering for a three-way conversation in the East Room. – Met separately, which had a mix of English, French and language. the Spanish.
The leaders issued a statement after the summit saying they had agreed to cooperate in addressing migration, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic – without specifying how they would resolve their differences.
As they played the alliance’s closeness game, the points of tension were also evident.
These include differences between Washington and Ottawa over proposed tax incentives that would benefit US electric car automakers; Frustration with López Obrador that the US is not moving to issue more temporary work visas, even as US businesses complain they are suffering labor shortages; and frustration by the US and Canada that Mexico is not moving fast enough to address climate change.
Biden met Trudeau for the first time, describing US-Canada relations as one of the smoothest during the early stages of his presidency. Trudeau said his values are deeply intertwined with those of Biden, but there are issues of disagreement.
As they sat down for talks, Biden reaffirmed their differences over proposed electric vehicle tax incentives in his massive social services and climate bill, and noted that the legislation had “not yet been passed in the House.”
Provisions in Biden’s proposed spending plan would offer US consumers a $7,500 tax credit for buying electric vehicles by 2026. Next year, only purchases of electric vehicles made in the US will be eligible for the credit. If the vehicle was built at a US plant that operates under a federally-negotiated collective bargaining agreement, the base credit would increase to $4,500.
“It doesn’t recognize the level of incredible integration of auto production between our two countries over the past 50 years,” Trudeau said after the meetings. “It is possible for an auto part to cross the limit six or seven times before it rolls off the assembly line into a complete vehicle.”
Trudeau said the credit would cause significant problems for vehicle production in Canada.
“Americans are very aware of Canada’s position on this and our concerns around it, and it’s clearly about the dangers of over 50 years of integrated auto-making in both of our countries, mostly Canada, the U.S. and the United States.” “Mexico was ratified in the free trade agreement, the new NAFTA,” Trudeau said.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday called the stimulus a clear violation of an updated trade agreement between the three countries that aims to protect American jobs and products in North America.
The union provision has also drawn flak from some non-union shops and US lawmakers. Still, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is “very committed to a bill that provides well-paying union jobs.”
Trump had an icy relationship with López Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pea Nieto for never saying publicly that Mexico would not pay for a wall along its border with the southern US.
But López Obrador appeared to reach an understanding of an issue with Trump: Mexico slowing the flow of Central American migrants trying to reach the US border, and Trump often turns a blind eye to every other aspect of the complicated relationship. Appeared to take
Lopez Obrador offered warm words for Biden when he appeared in front of the cameras on Thursday. The two leaders discussed Mexico’s relationship with the US under Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, before portraits of both Biden have featured prominently in the Oval Office.
The Mexican president praised Biden for treating his government with respect, something he noted has not always been taken for granted in the two countries’ long history, and funds in his spending bill to overhaul the immigration system. to contain. But he also pointed to his desire to see the US move faster on temporary visas.
López Obrador has on several occasions mentioned his interest in the US government in expanding its work visa program to meet the demand for more Mexican and Central American labor in the US. without becoming part of the illegal immigration flow.
“Why not study the workforce demand and systematically open up the migrant flow?” Lopez Obrador said.
After the meetings ended, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard described the day as “very successful”, adding that “the three have an ideological, political affinity and good chemistry and this means a new phase in the relationship.”
Ebrard said the US had agreed to speed up a development program for Central America similar to Mexico’s proposal, but did not specify what the program would include. Mexico has pushed forward the expansion of one of López Obrador’s signature social programs that pay farmers to plant trees on their land to relieve economic pressure to emigrate.
Thursday’s meetings at the White House marked the first tripartite meeting for North American leaders since the meeting of Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Pea Nieto in Ottawa in June 2016. The tradition of three-way meetings began when George W. Bush hosted Vicente Fox of Mexico and Paul Martin of Canada at his farm in Texas in 2005.
Mexico’s priorities going into the summit were concrete progress on immigration and achieving more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The US and Canada have expressed disappointment that López Obrador has failed to engage with global efforts to curb climate emissions. The Mexican president skipped a UN climate summit in Glasgow this month and accused elite countries of displaying “hypocrisy” when it comes to environmentalism.
Trudeau and Biden also discussed the future of an oil pipeline that crosses part of the Great Lakes and the growing tension over whether it should be closed. Biden is embroiled in a fight over Line 5 of Enbridge, a major section of a pipeline network that carries Canadian oil across the US Midwest.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and Biden ally, has called for the 68-year-old line to be closed because of a catastrophic rupture along a 4-mile stretch (6.4 kilometers) in the Strait of Mackinac, which connects the lake. Huron and Lake Michigan. The Biden administration has yet to take a stance but there is increasing pressure to do so.
Canada last month invoked a 1977 treaty that guarantees smooth transit of oil between the two countries.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report. Gillies reported from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Verza reported from Mexico City.