Friday, December 3

Biden, López Obrador and Trudeau

Correspondent in New York



The summit between EE.UU., Canada and Mexico It took shape again this Thursday with the scenography of before and the usual tensions: how to articulate trade and economic relations between the three countries of North America and how to manage migration flows from the South.

It was the first time in five years that the presidents of the three countries – now led by Joe Biden, Justin trudeau and Andrés Manuel López Obrador– celebrated this triangular summit, the meeting known as ‘the three friends’. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, did not promote such a meeting. His Canadian counterpart, Trudeau, was not a saint of his devotion and they maintained dialectical friction; With López Obrador, despite coming from very different ideological currents -with the common characteristic of populism-, he forged a good relationship and obtained his collaboration in immigration policy.

The main result of the Trump presidency in what has to do with the relationship with its two North American neighbors was the Trade Agreement of the US, Canada and Mexico, approved to replace the previous pact, Nafta, with which the then President was very critical. The main objectives of that renewal were for Mexico to update its labor laws to compete in less favorable circumstances with respect to American workers, force a larger portion of automobile production to occur within the borders of the United States, and get Canada to open its dairy market to the country’s farmers.

The treaty was signed, but that has not made the friction and commercial tensions disappear. This Thursday they emerged at the meeting between leaders. For example, in what has to do with the tax relief that Biden’s social and climate spending plan wants to give Americans who buy electric vehicles manufactured in their country. According to the Trudeau government, such measures are “counterproductive” and violate the trade agreement.

López Obrador, with US Vice President Kamala Harris
López Obrador, with US Vice President Kamala Harris – Afp

“Let’s talk about it,” Biden said only at the beginning of his meeting with Trudeau at the Oval Office, in the first moments that they are opened to the cameras and before questions shouted by members of the press. The US president, who the day before was in Detroit and visited a General Motors plant dedicated to electric cars, also said that this tax relief is still pending approval in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

It is not the only grievance: the US, for its part, accuses Canada of giving advantages to its dairy industry producers and Mexico of maintaining energy policies that give an advantage to Mexican state companies.

Also from the Oval Office, Trudeau assured that “it is a great pleasure to be here to talk about the environment, about trade, about how to end the pandemic.”

The Canadian prime minister did not mention immigration, a central point of the relationship between the other two participants. López Obrador, in a previous meeting with the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, he assured that migration issues would be discussed at the summit.

Controversial issues, on the sidelines

However, senior officials from both governments anonymously acknowledged to the press that the most controversial issues will not be discussed, such as the ‘Stay in Mexico’ policy, for which many of the undocumented immigrants who are detained when crossing the border with the US are returned to Mexico while their asylum application is processed, something that can take months. Biden, who promised more humane treatment to immigrants than his predecessor, has continued to use that process, as well as climate change regulations to return many of those trying to enter the country to Mexico.

The intention of the United States and Mexico was that immigration was not the central aspect of the summit, despite pressure from humanitarian organizations on the Biden Administration to fulfill its promises and improve the reception channels for immigrants. of the crisis at the border, where this year the record for the detention of undocumented persons has been broken.

Much of the focus, on the contrary, was on economic issues, with an impact on the three countries. For example, problems in the supply chain, affected by the pandemic of Covid-19, and for which they ask for an integrated regional system. Or the climate commitments, where Biden and Trudeau have great differences with respect to López Obrador.

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