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Biden plans in-person summit with Trudeau, Lopez Obrador over policy tensions

By Reuters and Agencies | November 10th 2021

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. [Reuters]

U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to host an in-person meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Nov. 18, the first of its kind in more than five years, a source in Ottawa has told Reuters.

Three other people familiar with the matter have also said final details are still being worked out but if the meeting goes ahead it would most likely be sometime next week in Washington.

The sources based in Ottawa and Mexico City requested anonymity because the plans are not yet public.

Biden has held virtual meetings with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since taking office this year and attended the G20 in Rome with Trudeau. The in-person summit coincides with policy tensions over immigration, energy and trade.

Immigration on the U.S. southern border with Mexico has reached record levels, and Mexico wants the U.S. to invest more to stem it.

As well as immigration, the agenda will cover fighting Covid-19 and competitiveness, the Ottawa source said.

The leaders of the three countries started holding what is informally known as the Three Amigos summit in 2005 and met most years until 2016. The practice ended when U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

The countries are bound together by the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement that governs some $1.5 trillion in North American trade annually.

Trudeau welcomed Biden's election win a year ago but since then a series of old trade disputes over lumber, pipelines and procurement have flared up

 Canada is also unhappy about the proposed U.S. tax credits for electric vehicles and says if they are introduced, it would respond appropriately. Ottawa says the move could harm the highly-integrated continental auto industry. 

In July, Canada and United States expressed concern about Mexican energy policies. 

The White House and Trudeau's office declined to comment. The office Lopez Obrador did not respond to requests for comment.

In January this year, Biden called Trudeau and López Obrador in his first outreach call to foreign leaders.

This was in an effort to mend the U.S. relationship with its North American neighbors.

Biden's call to Trudeau came after the latter publicly expressed disappointment over Biden’s decision to issue an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

A source said Biden explained to Trudeau that by issuing the order he was following through on a campaign pledge to stop construction of the pipeline.

Biden signed the executive order to halt construction of the pipeline just hours after he was sworn in.

However, Trudeau maintained that he wouldn’t allow his differences with Biden over the project to become a source of tension in the U.S.-Canada relationship.

“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Trudeau said. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”

Biden’s call with López Obrador also came days after the Mexican president accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defence secretary.

While Mexico continues to pledge to block mass movements of Central American migrants toward the U.S. border, there has been no shortage of potential flashpoints between the two countries.

Mexico demanded the return of former defence secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos after he was arrested in Los Angeles in October, threatening to restrict U.S. agents in Mexico if he wasn’t returned. U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop charges and return Cienfuegos to Mexico.

López Obrador later said in a statement that the conversation with Biden was “friendly and respectful." The two discussed immigration and Covid-19, among other issues.

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