Canadian Manufacturing

Trudeau calls Three Amigos summit ‘extremely effective,’ but Biden unmoved on EVs

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Nov. 17 warned it could become "the dominant issue" of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

November 19, 2021  The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to claim a moral victory on Nov. 18 after his day at the White House did little to defuse an escalating continental dispute over President Joe Biden’s plans to encourage Americans to buy more electric vehicles.

Trudeau and several senior cabinet ministers arrived in the U.S. capital hoping to convince Biden that his proposed tax incentive worth up to $12,500 to a prospective new-car buyer would kneecap Canada’s auto industry.

They depart on Nov. 19 with little to show for their efforts, leaving behind an administration that sounds unwilling to plot a different course and determined to focus its efforts on selling American-made cars and trucks built with U.S. union labour.

“In a relationship as big and as deep and as all-encompassing for so many of us, as is the relationship between Canada and the United States, there are always going to be challenges coming up,” Trudeau said.

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“As we solve some, new ones will arise, and what is most important is that we have strong, direct lines of communication and that we engage with them in constructive ways. That is exactly what we’ve done.”

During their customary fireside photo op in the Oval Office, Biden offered little evidence he was in a conciliatory mood, offering the usual bilateral pleasantries but promptly shutting down questions about the burgeoning dispute.

“We’re going to talk about that, to some extent,” Biden said, noting that the measure — part of a $1.75-trillion climate change and social spending measure central to his Build Back Better agenda — was a long way from becoming the law of the land.

“There’s a lot of complicating factors.”

The proposal is a major concern for automakers in both Canada and Mexico. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Nov. 17 warned it could become “the dominant issue” of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The three leaders also plan to strengthen their united effort to address the migration crisis that has seen millions of asylum seekers from Central America crashing Mexico’s borders. Venezuela’s economic and political crisis is expected to produce six million refugees by the end of the year.

Canada is expected to be added to the U.S.-Mexico supply chain working group to make it a North America-wide effort aimed at minimizing future disruptions for the continent. The new working group will look at defining essential industries, including critical minerals.

Trudeau used his first day in Washington on Nov. 17 to talk up Canada’s competitive advantage on critical minerals, which are used in batteries for computers, cellphones, electric vehicles and other essential items.