Biden-Trudeau assembly: A ‘return to stability’ after Trump


Montreal, Canada – In 1969, then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau famously described Canada’s proximity to the United States as akin to sleeping with an elephant: “No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast … one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Decades later, with Joe Biden within the White House, the “elephant” to Canada’s south will at the least be extra predictable than it was beneath Donald Trump, stated Daniel Beland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal.

“The Trump years were very hard in terms of Canada-US relations. It was a rollercoaster,” Beland instructed Al Jazeera. “With Biden, it’s a return to more stability in Canada-US relations.”

Biden’s choice to carry his first official assembly with a overseas head of presidency – with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – on Tuesday is a part of that return to a extra predictable relationship between the 2 neighbours, Beland stated.

Most US presidents keep near home on their first journey overseas, with many flying to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, inside their first months in workplace – although Trump eschewed that custom when he took his inaugural journey overseas to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

While Biden and Trudeau will meet just about because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beland stated selecting Canada sends a message. “It’s Biden sticking to tradition and I think this is sending a signal that Canada is still an important partner of the United States,” he stated.

388ddedb788842139088d6821417cf66 18Former US President Donald Trump referred to as Justin Trudeau ‘two-faced’ in 2019 after the Canadian prime minister was caught on video laughing with different world leaders a few Trump information convention at a NATO summit [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Economic restoration

The two international locations share the world’s longest land border and bilateral commerce between them totalled $725bn in 2019 – almost $2bn a day, in accordance to US State Department figures.

The relationship was examined beneath the Trump administration – which pressured Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminium and metal.

While Trudeau was cautious to take care of cordial relations with Trump, the ex-president referred to as Trudeau “two-faced” in 2019 after a video surfaced displaying the Canadian prime minister laughing with different world leaders a few Trump information convention throughout a NATO summit in London. The two leaders had been fast to downplay the minor public spat.

Nevertheless, US-Canada ties remained sturdy in the course of the Trump years. But now, Trudeau has extra in widespread with Biden than he did with Trump, stated Donald Abelson, director of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

He identified that the 2 leaders have met in-person earlier than – when Biden served as US vp – they usually get alongside effectively.

“It’s very important when you focus on the bilateral relationship between the two countries to have a prime minister and a president who get along, and who are able to identify common concerns and find constructive ways to move forward,” Abelson instructed Al Jazeera.

Before their assembly on Tuesday, the leaders stated they seemed ahead to deepening the connection between the international locations, and Trudeau stated they might focus on methods to sort out the COVID-19 pandemic, create jobs and struggle local weather change.

Both the US and Canada are working to safe COVID-19 vaccines to get the pandemic beneath management and methods to assist spur their hard-hit economies. The US-Canada border will stay closed to non-essential travel till at the least March 21 because of the coronavirus, nevertheless, Canadian officers stated this week.

Abelson additionally stated the 2 leaders would focus on vitality coverage, in addition to the Biden administration’s push to re-engage with multilateral establishments, corresponding to NATO and the United Nations – one thing that suffered beneath Trump.

Policy variations

Close ties don’t imply Biden and Trudeau will agree on all the things although.

Trudeau expressed disappointment final month when Biden nixed Keystone XL, a contentious 1,947-km (1,210-mile) pipeline that was set to stretch from the Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was particularly angered by that call.

Trudeau can even be keen to make sure commerce with Canada stays a precedence for Biden amid a rising “Buy America” motion that goals to prioritise US producers.

“Prime Minister Trudeau wants to make sure that Canadian producers are not cut out of the equation,” Abelson instructed Al Jazeera.

Beland added Trudeau might want to tread fastidiously as he tries to engineer an financial restoration.

“We have to be diplomatic because we realise that if the relationship between the two countries is spoiled … it can be really costly,” he stated. “In times of pandemic like this, we really need to collaborate with the US on issues of border control and public health, but especially on economic issues.”

China tensions

China can even be a subject of dialogue on Tuesday, stated Beland.

Tensions have escalated between Ottawa and Beijing since 2018, when Chinese authorities detained two Canadians after regulation enforcement officers arrested Huawei govt Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request.

The US has accused Meng of fraud – a cost she denies – and her extradition case continues to be earlier than a Canadian courtroom, whereas Canada has alleged China detained Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Beijing, which has accused the pair of spying, rejects that accusation.

Canada, the US and 56 different nations final week signed onto a non-binding decision denouncing arbitrary detention for political functions. While the signatories stated the measure utilized to international locations around the globe, it was considered as a rebuke of China.

“The Huawei affair is directly related to an extradition order from the US, so I think the US could do quite a bit here to facilitate the release of the two Michaels, or at least help with the situation because they have way more weight than [Canada has],” Beland stated.

Canada-China tensions are more likely to escalate additional after the Canadian parliament handed a non-binding movement on Monday describing Beijing’s therapy of its Uighur Muslim minority within the western province of Xinjiang as genocide.

Before the movement was handed, Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, rejected the genocide accusation and urged Ottawa to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” to keep away from worsening the international locations’ relationship.