While the three leaders coming out of the summit are not expected to be best friends with all their issues resolved, government officials, former diplomats and regional experts in the three countries are optimistic they can step up. goodwill and a stronger commitment to working together.

Biden’s election victory brought a sense of relief to Canada as it marked the end of an erratic period in the relationship under Trump. Although the three countries ultimately agreed to the United States-Mexico-Canada deal, a revamped free trade agreement that is currently being implemented, the former president’s provocations included the threat of tearing up NAFTA, l imposition of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and the launching of very public personal insults at Trudeau.

Biden even made Trudeau the first leader he met virtually after taking office. Although Trump visited Canada for a G-7 summit (which ended in disarray after his early departure and refusal to sign the final joint declaration), the former president did not visit bilateral official to Canada to meet Trudeau.

Despite hopes that Biden will rekindle the Prime Minister’s “bromance” with Barack Obama, his protectionist policies have made the friendship more transactional than neighborly.

“President Biden has doubled down on some of Trump’s policies and, in other cases, has taken actions that are directly against Canada’s interests,” said Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in an interview. “What we haven’t seen is the rebuilding of the relationship we were all hoping to see with the change of administration.”

Biden’s America-first agenda has fueled fears among Canadian businesses about business prospects in the United States, which is by far the country’s largest trading partner. For example, Canadian business leaders fear that Biden’s approach could block companies from sourcing opportunities in the United States and that his proposed electric vehicle tax credit will hurt the Canadian auto sector.

Feeling comfortable on the subject, Trudeau sharpened his language about his American counterpart.

“It is counterproductive for the Americans to introduce more barriers and limits to trade between our two countries,” Trudeau said in French at a press conference on Monday, when asked about the risks for Canada of protectionism American. “This is an issue that I have already highlighted very often with President Biden and it will certainly be part of the important conversations we will have later this week.”

Meanwhile, Biden faces his own challenges as he meets López Obrador face to face.

The meeting offers the two men the opportunity to dispel a certain suspicion, even if the chemistry is not there between them.

But the two leaders are unlikely to be able to replicate López Obrador’s friendship with Trump. The two leaders have built a relationship based on their mutual respect for nationalist and authoritarian tendencies and their ability to stay mostly aloof from domestic issues, despite Trump’s regular slurs on Mexicans and promises to build a border wall to prevent migrants to enter. , criminals, drugs and the coronavirus. López Obrador even came to call Trump a friend and the two met in the White House last year.

“You get the feeling that there is more mistrust in the relationship between López Obrador and Biden – and it’s ironic because people like me at the start of Trump were writing that the relationship was going to explode and, in fact, it wasn’t. That’s not the case, ”said Eric Farnsworth, vice chairman of the Council of the Americas think tank and former US government official.

“But at the end of the day, there are times when you really have to do your best to get along – and I think that’s one of those times,” Farnsworth added.

In Biden’s first year in power, López Obrador, a left-wing leader known for its nationalist and populist leanings, has rarely shied away from calling the United States for what it sees as interventionist approaches or US interference in the affairs of other countries. He has also taken strong action to restrict private investment in Mexico’s energy sector, a major sticking point with the United States for a variety of business and environmental reasons. In a statement ahead of the summit, Mexico even made it clear that López Obrador refused to discuss his controversial electricity reforms during the visit to Washington.

“López Obrador is trying to show that he is the president of a sovereign country, but I have a feeling that if Biden and Trudeau speak to him openly, he will listen,” said Martha Bárcena, who resigned earlier this year. of her position as Ambassador of Mexico to the US

So far, the Biden administration has not shared details on the tangible results it hopes to achieve from the summit. In the president’s weekly schedule, the White House said the three leaders “will reaffirm their strong ties and integration while charting a new collaborative path to end the COVID-19 pandemic and advance health security; competitiveness and equitable growth, including climate change; and a regional vision of migration.

In the months leading up to the summit, Biden officials called the regional relationship “more institutional,” Bárcena said. In September, for example, the United States and Mexico relaunched the high-level economic dialogue – and weeks later the two countries announced a new framework and dialogue for security cooperation.

Among the major issues that the United States must resolve with Mexico is its frayed security relationship, as well as the continued need for cooperation on migration. The United States has long relied on Mexico to help reduce the number of migrants coming to the southern border of the United States. Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has deported hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico without allowing them to seek asylum using a public health order known as Title 42.

The two countries are still in discussions over reviving the Stay in Mexico policy, which has forced migrants to wait in Mexico for their asylum claims to be heard, after a federal judge in August ordered Biden to reinstate the rule. of the Trump era, which critics say illegal, inhumane and puts migrants at increased risk. The Biden administration, however, recently announced another attempt to end the policy.

Meanwhile, US and Mexican officials also discussed how to tackle the conditions that force migrants to flee their countries of origin, though there has been some disagreement over how best to proceed. López Obrador, for example, pushed the United States to expand its tree-planting program, which he said could help stem migration and offer more temporary guest worker visas, which the United States have adopted.

Biden, for his part, continues to fight to keep his campaign promise to create a just and humane immigration system. And Congress remains unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Earlier this year, on the same day as a virtual meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss migration issues, the Mexican leader called on the United States for “interventionism” and “meddling” in the country regarding funding for a Mexican anti-corruption group. . López Obrador says the group is aligned with his opposition.

López Obrador, often referred to by his initials AMLO, has also publicly diverged dramatically from the United States on foreign policy issues. In September, he hosted Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel in Mexico for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit. The United States is not part of the CELAC regional bloc.

On Mexican Independence Day, which took place the week of the summit, López Obrador – a supporter of the Cuban regime – called on Biden to “act with grandeur and end the political attacks on Cuba”. The Biden administration has sharply criticized the Cuban government’s repressive crackdown since protesters in Havana and across the country took to the streets in July to demand freedom.

On Monday, a senior administration official said Biden would “certainly” raise the issue with López Obrador and Trudeau, as both countries maintain. diplomatic and economic relations with the Cuban government.

“López Obrador is coming is a good thing,” said a longtime observer from the United States and Mexico, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly. “He’s coming after spending time with Maduro and Díaz-Canel and blowing us up at the UN, but the fact that he’s coming is inherently a good thing.”

Ultimately, officials express hope that the summit will lead to a stronger regional agenda after years of estrangement from one another.

“If you see NAFTA, it’s the North American Free Trade Agreement. But if you see USMCA, it’s the United States, Mexico, and Canada. It is the national interests of each country instead of the concept of a region, ”said Bárcena. “We have to come back to the concept of a region – and I hope this summit is a first step.”


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