OTTAWA: US President Joe Biden (pix) was set to meet Friday with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and address Canada's parliament, amid reports that a deal has been struck on managing undocumented migration across the neighbors' long border.
Trade, Canada's anemic defense spending, and a potential international force to stabilize troubled Haiti were expected to headline the agenda.
As Biden flew from Washington late Thursday, there were reports that another hot button issue in the otherwise smooth relationship had been resolved through a deal to clamp down on undocumented migration by asylum seekers passing through the United States into Canada.
According to The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Canada will be able to stop illegal migrants at the Roxham Road crossing point on the frontier between New York state and Quebec.
The flow of migrants there has been a source of irritation in Canadian domestic politics, much as it is in Washington concerning illegal entries across the US-Mexico border.
The reports said that Canada has agreed in return to take in some 15,000 asylum seekers from Latin America through legal channels, a move that will ease the pressure on the southern US border.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not confirm the news but said “we will hear more about it from the president and the prime minister.”
Ahead of the visit, the two sides stressed their close integration.
“I think that’s going to be the theme of this visit, that we are there making each other stronger and better,“ Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, told CBC.
But only modest, if any, progress is expected on tensions over Biden's Inflation Reduction Act -- a massive program to subsidize and kick start US-based development of electric vehicles and other clean energy products.
“We are looking for more inclusion in exactly those things,“ a senior Canadian government official told reporters.
“We want a North America that is globally competitive, so that our two economies, which are already so integrated, where so many businesses and jobs and supply chains rely on each other, can compete with the world and can be successful together.”
- NATO, NORAD spending questions -
Another item expected to appear on the agenda is the financing of the neighbors' mutual defense pacts, both as members of NATO and their joint air defense system for North America, named NORAD.
The US government has been pressuring Canada to increase its defense spending, which in 2022 was just 1.33 percent of GDP. This is scheduled to rise to 1.59 percent from 2026, but that's still well below the NATO alliance requirement of minimum two percent of GDP spending.
Jean-Pierre praised Canada’s contributions to the Western alliance helping Ukraine to fend off Russia’s invasion but said regarding the budget, “I’m sure that conversation will come up.”
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Biden and Trudeau would discuss pleas from Haiti's leaders for an international force to bring order to the impoverished Caribbean nation, where the authorities are unable to subdue armed gangs.
The “humanitarian situation in Haiti is worsening and the situation on the ground would not improve without armed security assistance from international partners,“ Jean-Pierre said, adding decisions on any such force would be taken “in consultation with the UN.” -AFP