HO CHI MINH CITY –
From the numbing cold of a Canadian winter, the land of the conquerors and Frida Kahlo seemed millions of miles away.
But that’s not how North American diplomats, trade experts and business leaders see it — and they expect the continent’s leaders to have the same vision as the so-called ” Three Friends” gathers in Mexico City this week.
“North America’s potential is huge,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former White House official under the Clinton administration who now heads the DC office of the Council of the Americas and the Association of Americas.
Farnsworth said the continent perspective will be crucial to making substantive progress on issues such as strengthening supply chains, mitigating China’s influence and building a 21st-century workforce in the aftermath of the pandemic. COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope that the leaders, when they meet to discuss some of these issues, keep in mind the basic vision of what North America can truly become,” he said during a meeting. discussion on Friday.
“We couldn’t do these things without our partners in Canada and Mexico; it’s just the foundation of our own prosperity. And that should be the fundamental message of our leaders. when they met.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will arrive in Mexico City later on Monday, where he will participate in an afternoon panel discussion with business leaders from across the continent before the summit gets underway in earnest on Monday. Tuesday.
While Prime Minister Trudeau is on the plane, Joe Biden – fresh from his first presidential visit to the politically fraught southern border – will have a bilateral meeting with his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez. Obrador.
A confrontation between the two leaders of Canada and the United States is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Gary Doer, who served as Canada’s ambassador to the US from 2009 to 2016, said: “It was a tripartite meeting, a trilateral summit, but there were also a lot of bilateral issues discussed at the summit. those meetings”.
Doer recalls that then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper had many face-to-face meetings with his US counterpart Barack Obama during the last summit in Mexico in 2014.
With Canadian and Mexican manufacturers adding to Biden’s 11th hour plan to encourage sales of climate-friendly electric vehicles, there’s room to talk about more familiar irritants like trade disputes. trade and protectionism in the United States.
On those fronts, there is no shortage of points worth mentioning.
The United States argues that Canada’s supply-managed dairy market denies American producers fair access to customers north of the border. The US also believes that Mexico is unfairly favoring domestic energy suppliers. And both Mexico and Canada say the US isn’t playing fair when it comes to how it defines foreign content in its auto supply chains.
Mexico is also under pressure to reach an agreement with the United States on President Lopez Obrador’s plan to ban imports of genetically modified corn and the herbicide glyphosate, an order that angered American farmers.
Then there is Buy American, the long-standing, politically pervasive US doctrine of prioritizing domestic suppliers over those of its most neighboring allies.
Canada may have averted disaster when Biden’s electric vehicle tax credits were revised last year to include North American manufacturers, but the president still rarely misses a chance to tout the supply chain. manufactured in the US.
Louise Blais, a retired Canadian diplomat who served as ambassador to the United Nations and consul general in Atlanta, said the green energy incentives currently in place in the US still pose challenges for with Canada.
“I hope both the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada will bring this up with the president to say, ‘Look, we need a more continental approach to some policies,'” Blais said. this’.
“Ultimately it is in the interest of the United States to get those laws right so that they actually promote prosperity across America.”
As a country not immune to the effects of irregular migration and fentanyl flows at the US-Mexico border, Canada also needs to join that conversation, an issue many expect to dominate. agenda.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported nearly 2.4 million deportations and arrests at or near the southern border in the last fiscal year, up 37% from the previous fiscal period. . Anecdotal evidence suggests a post-pandemic increase in irregular migration in both directions at the northern border.
Biden’s Sunday visit to the southern border comes after a fresh crackdown on illegal migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, in addition to existing restrictions on Venezuelan migrants.
At the same time, the US plans to welcome 30,000 new immigrants a month from all four countries for the next two years, as long as they are eligible to work and enter the country legally.
Brian Nichols, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, made it clear during a Wilson Center panel discussion on Friday that his country’s special relationship with Canada would not be lost. in Mexico.
The last North American meeting at the White House in 2021, Nichols said, produced a list of more than 40 different “delivered products” — a huge number by most standards, but no nothing surprising for the three countries that share a common border.
“It’s a family conversation in a way that you don’t normally have with other countries,” he said. “The goodwill to advance our common future in those conversations is what really emerges.”
However, Canada generally doesn’t want to be lumped in with Mexico when it comes to relations with the US, said Scotty Greenwood, executive director of the Canada-US Business Council.
“They want to have their own unique relationship with the United States, so we’ll see if Canada will accept or resist the ‘North American idea,'” Greenwood said.
“It means, ‘Look at everything as a block and an area, and let’s work things out together.’ I hope it will accept it. But that will be different.”
Biden has also not visited Canada in person since taking office — a longstanding bilateral tradition that usually takes place shortly after a president’s inauguration, but was interrupted in 2021 due to the pandemic.
This week’s meetings could bring new clarity to the timing of Biden’s long-promised north tour – confirmed in the summer, but interrupted when the president himself has the results. positive – can take place eventually.