Aamer Madhani, Rob Gillies and Maria Verza | Associated Press
WASHINGTON – In resurrecting a trilateral summit in North America after a five-year hiatus, President Joe Biden on Thursday joined the leaders of Canada and Mexico to proclaim that their countries can work together to prove that “democracies can bear fruit” even as they bridge divisions. key questions.
But when Biden spoke of their mutual respect alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, the three leaders also faced new challenges in trade, immigration, climate change and other issues.
“We can solve all problems if we just take the time to talk to each other, working together,” said Biden, who hosted North American neighbors in an almost annual tradition a decade before President Donald Trump came. to the office.
It was a day of full-fledged diplomacy that required careful choreography as Trudeau and Lopez Obrador met separately with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris before meeting for a three-way talk in the East Room, which used a mix of English, French and French. Spanish.
As they emphasized the closeness of the alliance, points of tension were evident.
These include disagreements between Washington and Ottawa over proposed tax breaks that will benefit American electric vehicle makers, López Obrador’s frustration that the US is not going to issue more temporary work visas, even though American companies are complaining that suffer from a shortage of workers, and frustration for the US and Canada that Mexico is not accelerating to tackle climate change.
Biden met with Trudeau first, calling the US-Canadian relationship one of the easiest at the start of his presidency.
But as they sat down to negotiate, the president also confirmed their disagreement over proposed tax breaks for electric vehicles in his massive social services and climate bill.
“We’re going to talk about it,” Biden said. “It hasn’t even passed in the House yet.”
A provision in Biden’s proposed spending plan would offer 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 collective bargaining agreement between the 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.
The union regulation has also met with opposition from some non-union organizations and US legislators. Nonetheless, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden “is largely committed to the bill to provide well-paid unions.”
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 U.S. southern border.
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 cameras on Thursday. The two leaders discussed Mexico’s relationship with the United States under Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt in front of portraits of both, which Biden displayed prominently in the Oval Office.
The Mexican president praised Biden for respecting his government, which he said was not always a given in the long history of the two countries, and for including funding in his account for spending on immigration reform. But he also cited his desire to see the US move quickly to temporary visas.
Lopez Obrador has repeatedly spoken of his interest in the US government expanding its 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 seek in the United States. without becoming part of the stream of illegal immigration.
“Why not study the demand for labor and open up the flow of migration in an orderly manner?” – said Lopez Obrador.
Thursday’s White House meetings marked the first trilateral meeting of North American leaders since Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto met in Ottawa in June 2016. The tradition of tripartite meetings began when George W. Bush hosted Mexican Vicente Fox and Canadian Paul Martin in 2005 at his Texas ranch.
Mexico’s priorities ahead of the summit were concrete gains in immigration and more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The US and Canada expressed disappointment that Lopez Obrador was unable to participate in global efforts to reduce air emissions. The Mexican president skipped this month’s UN climate summit in Glasgow and accused elite nations of displaying “hypocrisy” when it comes to protecting the environment.
Trudeau and Biden were 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 because of the potential for a catastrophic rupture at 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.