Biden's Canada Agenda Stacked 03/24 06:01
President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday for talks with Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world's most difficult challenges:
the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration and an increasingly
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) -- President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday
for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world's most
difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration
and an increasingly assertive China.
Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Biden even departed
Washington. Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the
North American Aerospace Defense Command and the two nations have reached an
agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to U.S. and
Canadian officials. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and
The migration deal eliminates a loophole under existing rules that will
allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers at the countries' borders. The
loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually crossing into Canada from
the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as
they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the
As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000
migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to apply to enter the
country, according to a Canadian official.
The new policy applies to people without U.S. or Canadian citizenship who
are caught within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries.
Biden and Trudeau did not respond to questions from reporters about the
agreement when the president and first lady Jill Biden arrived for a private
gathering at the prime minister's residence.
The White House declined to comment on the agreement, which is expected to
be formally announced Friday.
The visit comes as the Biden administration has made strengthening its
relationship with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides see the
meetings in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunity to set plans for the future.
National security and air defenses are top of mind after a Chinese spy
balloon last month traversed North America. Canada plans to update its radar
systems and has agreed to an accelerated timeline for spending billions more on
military upgrades for NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent,
according to the senior Canadian government official.
Canada announced last year it is investing $3.8 billion (Canadian $4.9
billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD radar systems and billions
more years later, but David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has said the
current threat climate calls for quicker investment.
The loophole in the U.S.-Canada migration rules allowed thousands of
migrants to cross into Canada from the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint,
enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the
process play out while staying in the U.S.
A quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada says people seeking
asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in. Migrants who go to an
official crossing are returned to the U.S. and told to apply there. But those
who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry are allowed to
stay and request protection, as has been happening on Roxham Road between
Champlain, New York, and Quebec.
More than 39,000 claims were filed in 2022 by people who were intercepted by
Canadian police, the vast majority of them in Quebec and at Roxham Road.
The broadened focus of Biden's visit represents an evolution of a friendship
between the two countries that exceeds 150 years. The emphasis had more
frequently been on issues like trade that had defined relations between the two
countries, which share a 5,525-mile border.
"This visit is about taking stock of what we've done, where we are and what
we need to prioritize for for the future," said John Kirby, a spokesman for the
White House National Security Council. "We're going to talk about our two
democracies stepping up to meet the challenges of our time."
There will still be an emphasis on trade, yet Canada and the U.S. see the
partnership as crucial in supporting Ukraine against Russia's invasion,
reducing their dependence on Chinese goods and shifting toward cleaner energy
sources amid the planetary damage caused by burning fossil fuels.
The leaders are also expected to discuss tapping critical minerals that will
enable the production of electric vehicles, and military and economic
commitments at a moment that observers say is the most dangerous since World
War II. Chinese President Xi Jinping this week visited Russian President
Vladimir Putin, pledging to deepen their economic ties in ways that could help
fund Putin's ongoing war to take Ukraine.
"The United States is coming with big strategic issues on their mind," said
Vincent Rigby, a former national security adviser to Trudeau. "It's a world
where they're looking to allies to help."
Trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated record of $950
billion (Canadian $1.3 trillion) in 2022. Each day, about 400,000 people cross
the world's longest international border, and about 800,000 Canadian citizens
live in the United States. There is close cooperation on defense, border
security and law enforcement, and a vast overlap in culture, traditions and
Biden will address Parliament and Trudeau will host him for a state dinner
Friday evening. It is Biden's first visit to Canada since he became president,
but Trudeau also gave Biden a state dinner when he was vice president in
December 2016 just before Donald Trump took office.
"It didn't need to have happened. It was an incredibly well timed and wise
investment on the prime minister's part to do that and I think it's paid
dividends," said Bruce Heyman, who was U.S. ambassador to Canada at the time.
Last year, Canada was exempted from the subsidy restrictions for electric
vehicles in Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. Heyman called it a huge win for
The NORAD partnership was in the spotlight recently when NORAD tracked a
suspected Chinese spy balloon that passed over the two countries before being
shot down over the coast of South Carolina. A U.S. fighter jet later shot down
an unidentified flying object in Canadian airspace.
The British, Australians and Japanese are all investing more in defense
given the threats posed by Beijing and Moscow, and the U.S. expects its
northern neighbor to do its part.
Canada has long faced calls to increase its defense spending to 2% of its
gross domestic product, the agreed-upon target by NATO members. Ottawa spends
about 1.2% now. Canada announced in January it will purchase 88 F-35 fighter
jets but at the time of the announcement said the first four won't arrive for
another three years.
The U.S. is also pushing Canada to lead an international force in Haiti but
Canada's top military official has suggested the country doesn't have the