Biden in Canada to discuss trade and migration challenges
US President Joe Biden on Thursday landed in Canada where he will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and address Parliament, amid reports that a deal has been struck on managing undocumented migration across their long border.
Trade, Canada’s anaemic defence spending, and a potential international force to stabilise troubled Haiti are expected to be on the agenda in the events set largely for Friday.
Earlier, there were reports that another issue in the otherwise smooth relationship had been resolved through a deal to clamp down on undocumented migration by asylum seekers passing through the US into Canada.
According to The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Canada will be able to stop illegal migrants at the Roxham Road crossing point on the frontier between New York state and Quebec.
The flow of migrants there has been a source of irritation in domestic Canadian politics, as it has been in Washington with illegal entries from Mexico.
The reports said that Canada has agreed in return to take in about 15,000 asylum seekers from Latin America through legal channels, a move that will ease the pressure on the southern US border.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not confirm the news but said “we will hear more about it from the President and the Prime Minister tomorrow”.
Before the visit, the two sides stressed their close integration.
“I think that’s going to be the theme of this visit, that we are there making each other stronger and better,” Canada’s ambassador to the US, Kirsten Hillman, told CBC.
But only modest, if any, progress is expected on tension over Mr Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act — a massive programme to subsidise and start US-based development of electric vehicles and other clean energy products.
“We are looking for more inclusion in exactly those things,” a senior Canadian government official told reporters.
“We want a North America that is globally competitive so that our two economies, which are already so integrated, where so many businesses and jobs and supply chains rely on each other, can compete with the world and can be successful together.”
Another expected item on the agenda is the financing of the neighbours’ mutual defence pacts as members of Nato, and of their joint air defence system for North America, named Norad.
The US government has been pressuring Canada to increase its defence spending, which in 2022 was just 1.33 per cent of GDP.
This is scheduled to rise to 1.59 per cent from 2026 but that is still well below the Nato alliance requirement of minimum 2 per cent of GDP.
Ms Jean-Pierre praised Canada’s contributions to the western alliance helping Ukraine to fend off Russia but said, regarding the budget, “I’m sure that conversation will come up.”
Earlier Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Mr Biden and Mr Trudeau would discuss pleas from Haiti’s leaders for an international force to bring order to the impoverished Caribbean nation, where the authorities are unable to subdue armed gangs.