WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has a loaded schedule for his first trip to Canada as president: a gathering at the prime minister’s residence, a gala and plenty of opportunities to display his chummy relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
Amid the rosy display of the two nation’s relationship, however, the two leaders will also find themselves addressing key global and hemispheric issues including the Russia-Ukraine war, increased security concerns with China and a spike in migration at the United State’s northern border.
- What else is on the schedule: Biden and Trudeau will hold a bilateral meeting. The two leaders will hold a press conference. Biden will also address Canada’s Parliament and later attend a gala dinner with First Lady Jill Biden at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum.
- Loaded agenda: National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that the two leaders will discuss defense spending, clean energy and climate change, how Canada can assist in Haiti and Ukraine, and migration throughout North America.
- What Happened Thursday?: Biden arrived in Canada Thursday evening, where the president was greeted at Ottawa International Airport by Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada and her husband Whit Fraser.
Increase defense spending to address Russia, Ukraine and China
A war between Russia and Ukraine is ongoing. China President Xi Jinping has displayed his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the U.S. has suspected that a balloon shot down last month was sent by China to spy on the United States all while North Korea continues to test its nuclear capabilities.
And the United States wants Canada to do more to help on some of these global issues.
Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss defense spending, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
“The President will underscore how the U.S.-Canada partnership benefits not only our two countries but the entire world, and that by working together, we can address some of the biggest challenges we face,” John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Wednesday.
The pressure is on for Canada.
Vincent Rigby, former national security and intelligence advisor to the prime minister of Canada, said Biden has turned to key allies such as the UK, Japan and Australians to increase their defense funding or to help assist with defense equipment. But Rigby said that Canada hasn’t been keeping up with some of those allies.
“President Biden may be looking to have the Prime Minister assure him, or reassure him, that hey, Canada has its eye on the ball,” Rigby said, adding that Canada is prepared to step up at home and in North America.
He said the United States often comes to Canada saying that they’re not doing enough on defense or national security and that it’s “a perennial issue in their relationship.”
But he added that there’s an expectation this time that Canada will “hopefully do a little bit more” in regards to defense.
Immigration problems at the U.S. northern border
Migration challenges are hitting the border. The northern border that is.
There has been a spike in recent months of migrants crossing between Canada and the United States without authorization along the nation’s northern border near New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. The increased number of migrants has caused challenges for local officials in the states and in Canada.
Kirby said “without question” the two leaders will be discussing the issue of migration.
A key treaty that is expected to come up in their immigration talks: Canada–United States Safe Third Country Agreement.
- The agreement states that a person must first seek refugee status in the first country they arrive in between either the U.S. or Canada, unless they qualify for an exception.
- Kirby would not say whether the two leaders would make changes or scrap the treaty following a loophole that is leading to a spike in migrants crossing into Canada.
But the two countries may have struck a deal to address some immigration challenges on the northern border.
The L.A. Times is reporting that the United States and Canada have come to an agreement that will allow each country to turn back asylum seekers who come to the northern border without authorization.
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Help on Haiti
Haiti will likely also be on the top of the agenda for the two leaders.
As armed gangs have taken over Haiti, causing instability, the United States wants Canada to send a peacekeeping force to the country.
However, Trudeau has expressed reservations of sending peacekeepers or military personnel to help the Haitian police forces.
Kirby said the two leaders will discuss the situation in Haiti,but he declined to answer whether Biden will press Trudeau to send peacekeepers. Kirby added that if there is a need for a peacekeeping force, that it will “have to be worked out directly with the Haitian government and with the U.N.”
“They share a concern about the dire situation down there from a security and humanitarian perspective,” Kirby said of Haiti. “This is not something that is unfamiliar to either the Prime Minister or the President.”
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_