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Monday, December 6, 2021

Biden, Trudeau to discuss electric vehicle controversy at summit

by Aamer Madani, Rob Gillies and Maria Varza

Washington (AP) —

President Joe Biden kicked off the North American leaders’ summit with a one-on-one meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, describing the two countries’ ties as one of the smoothest in the early stages of his presidency.

But as Biden and Trudeau sat down for talks, they also confirmed that the two leaders would discuss their differences over proposed electric vehicle tax incentives in their massive social services and climate bill that are causing concern in Ottawa.

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

Biden was later meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, and the three leaders were also to meet together as they revived a near-annual summit that had been dormant during President Donald Trump’s time in office. . Trudeau and López Obrador were also holding separate meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris.

A provision in the US spending plan would offer US consumers a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle 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.

The union’s provision has drawn flak from some non-union shops and MPs. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden is “very committed to the bill to provide well-paying union jobs.”

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.

Trudeau, Freeland and other Canadian ministers expressed their concerns at a meeting with US officials on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. And Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said she raised concerns about the electric vehicle provision with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.

Freeland said that for Canada, “one of the tasks here in the US this week is to really make our American counterparts aware of the extent to which their current stance on this issue is a problem for Canada and to really convince them.” For that the way they have really prepared this impetus, really has the potential to become a major issue in our bilateral relationship.”

As Biden, Trudeau and López Obrador resume the tradition of summiting North American leaders, the three allies also face deep differences over migration and climate issues.

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

Thursday’s meeting at the White House marks the first tripartite meeting for North American leaders since the June 2016 gathering of Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Pea Nieto in Ottawa. The gatherings took a hiatus under President Donald Trump, who feuded with Trudeau and Nieto during his term.

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

Mexico’s priorities going into the summit were concrete progress on immigration and achieving more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The tradition of three-way meetings began when George W Bush hosted Vicente Fox of Mexico and Paul Martin of Canada for talks at his farm in Waco, Texas in 2005.

Biden has already held separate virtual meetings with Trudeau in February and López Obrador in March.

Meanwhile, the US and Canada have expressed disappointment that López Obrador has failed to engage with global efforts to curb climate emissions. The Mexican president did not attend the UN climate summit in Glasgow this month.

López Obrador’s government, for its part, wants to pledge US development funds to the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. Mexican leaders continue to pressure the US to expand its tree planting program in Central America.

Mexico has worked with the United States – both under Trump and Biden – to control migrant flows and aid in the return of migrants to Central America. The two countries are still in talks to re-implement a court-ordered Trump-era policy known in Mexico as Remain, which allowed asylum seekers to wait out their US asylum process in Mexico. forced to Saki said the policy was not expected to be a major topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting.

López Obrador has also mentioned on several occasions his interest in the US government expanding its temporary 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

Arriving in Washington on Wednesday, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said his government would focus on three issues: the pandemic, economic integration and immigration. On immigration, Ebrard said Mexico would try to rally support for López Obrador’s two signature social programs – tree planting and youth job opportunities – to ease the push factors of migration.

US Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, recently expressed “grave concern” about the Mexican government’s efforts to limit competition in the electric power sector.

Trudeau and Biden are also expected to discuss the future of an oil pipeline that traverses part of the Great Lakes and is a subject of 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 the smooth transit of oil between the two countries.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

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