Canadian Manufacturing

North American leaders meet to discuss automotive manufacturing vision

The Canadian Press

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Canada may have averted catastrophe when Biden's electric-vehicle tax credits were amended last year to include North American manufacturers.

From the frosty throes of a Canadian winter, the land of conquistadors and Frida Kahlo can seem a million miles away.

But that’s not the way North American diplomats, trade experts and business leaders see it — and they hope the continent’s leaders have a similar vision as the so-called “Three Amigos” gather this week in Mexico City.

“The potential for North America is immense,” said Eric Farnsworth, the former Clinton-era White House official who now leads the D.C. office of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society.

Farnsworth said a continental perspective will be vital to make substantive progress on issues like fortified supply chains, mitigating China’s influence and building a 21st-century workforce in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“It’s our hope that the leaders, when they get together to talk about some of these issues, keep in mind the fundamental vision of what North America really could be,” he told a panel discussion on Jan. 6.

“We can’t do these things without our partners in Canada and Mexico; it’s just fundamental to our own well-being. And so that has to be the underlying message of the leaders as they get together.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives later on Jan. 9 in Mexico City, where he’ll take part in an afternoon discussion with business leaders from across the continent before the summit gets underway in earnest on Jan. 10.

A tete-a-tete between just the Canadian and U.S. leaders is scheduled to take place on Jan. 10.

“It’s a trilateral meeting, a trilateral summit, but there are lots of bilateral items that are discussed at those meetings as well,” said Gary Doer, who served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2016.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper got plenty of one-on-one face time with U.S. counterpart Barack Obama the last time the summit took place in Mexico in 2014, Doer recalled.

With Canadian and Mexican manufacturers added in the 11th hour to Biden’s plan to encourage the sale of climate-friendly electric vehicles, there will be room to talk about more familiar irritants like trade disputes and U.S. protectionism.

On those fronts, there is no shortage of talking points.

The U.S. argues that Canada’s supply-managed dairy market denies American producers fair access to customers north of the border. The U.S. also says Mexico is unfairly favouring domestic energy suppliers. And both Mexico and Canada say the U.S. isn’t playing fair when it comes to how it defines foreign content in its automotive supply chains.

Mexico is also under pressure to come to terms with the U.S. on Lopez Obrador’s plan to ban imports of genetically modified corn and the herbicide glyphosate, a decree that has angered American farmers

Then there’s Buy American, the long-standing, politically popular U.S. doctrine of preferring domestic suppliers over those of even the most neighbourly allies.

Canada may have averted catastrophe when Biden’s electric-vehicle tax credits were amended last year to include North American manufacturers, but the president still rarely misses a chance to tout made-in-America supply chains.


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