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Many challenges ahead for the “three amigos”

TORONTO – Illegal immigration, protectionism, industry and commerce… there are many topics on the plate at the meeting between the so-called “Three Amigos”: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden and Canadian President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will meet during the next week for a trilateral summit in Mexico City and will discuss a series of hot topics, some burning ones such as the worsening of the migration crisis that Biden has to face on the border between the United States and Mexico and which, in some way, also involves Canada. 

In fact, the latter too, like the United States, is a destination country for illegal migrants from Latin America: a phenomenon that brings with itself a series of social and security problems starting with the diffusion of “fentanyl”, a deadly drug that threatens to take root in Canada as well.

Then, there is the front of the production of electric vehicles, on which Canada is betting a lot. Trudeau will have to raise his voice a bit to get Biden’s attention on issues of specific concern to Canada, said Scotty Greenwood, chief executive officer of the Canadian American Business Council. And one of the questions is the growth of the critical minerals industry, the cornerstone of the electric vehicle market. “Canada needs to do much more and much faster than the United States,” Greenwood added.

Gary Doer, the former Manitoba premier who served as Canada’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2016, also said he expects the issue of resilient and reliable supply chains more broadly to be a dominant theme of the summit. “With all the supply chain issues going on in the world and North America’s opportunity to improve local North American supply chains, this is going to be quite an important element” Doer said. “The more certainties we can have about the supply chain, the more certainties we can have about the economy. This is a very important part of tackling the investigation: when there is uncertainty, you have higher costs”.

Biden and Trudeau will hold a bilateral meeting on Tuesday, before the formal agenda of the tripartite begins. On the eve of the meeting, Biden – who traveled south over the weekend to visit the Mexico-US border before the summit – will have a face-to-face meeting with Lopez Obrador on Monday.

“Our partnership with Canada and Mexico is crucial to our economic security, prosperity, democratic stability and, of course, migration management” said US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “This summit of North American leaders will give all of us an opportunity to strengthen those partnerships and advance shared priorities for North America”.

All three countries will also want to talk about the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the multiple trade disputes that have arisen around it since it became law in 2020. In particular, Canada and the United States will try to address the problem measures favoring Mexican energy companies: President Obrador has in fact relaunched the state electricity company Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and the oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). “I understand that he wants to give more emphasis to state energy companies – Trudeau said – but it must be done responsibly and within the framework of a pact, the USMCA, whose rules must be respected”.

Finally, Biden has yet to visit Canada in person since taking office — a long-standing bilateral tradition that typically comes shortly after a presidential inauguration, but which was cut short in 2021 by the Covid-19 pandemic. This week’s meetings could provide new clarity on when Biden’s much-promised trip north — confirmed over the summer, but cut short again when the US president himself tested positive — might finally take place.

In the pic: López Obrador, Biden and Trudeau at 2021 summit (photo from president Obrador’s website  https://lopezobrador.org.mx)

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