This week, U.S. President Joe Biden will make his first official state visit to Canada, a high profile opportunity to connect with the Prime Minister on the most pressing Canada-U.S. issues. The Prime Minister’s Office and the White House have both signalled a hopeful and productive agenda for this week’s visit. What’s on the docket for this highly anticipated, if delayed, diplomacy? Clean energy, supply chains, climate change, critical minerals, and security.
Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden have a strong relationship that dates back to when Biden was Vice-President in the Obama administration. Canada and the United States have seen a renewed relationship since Biden took office in January 2021, a stark contrast to a tumultuous relationship with our southern neighbours during President Donald Trump’s term. There hasn’t been a state visit to Canada from a U.S. president since President Obama’s visit in 2016.
Biden and Trudeau have met several times, including most recently at the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City in January. This was viewed as a very positive meeting, with all three leaders leaving the summit touting an optimistic vision for the future of the continent. Biden noted that Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. have a “generational opportunity to strengthen supply chains for critical minerals, electric vehicles, and semiconductors.” When Trudeau left Mexico he noted that Canada had an opportunity given the United States’ decision to begin “friend-shoring” its economic relations.
Speaking to this week’s visit, the prime minister said that Canada will continue working with the U.S. to “defend our continent and our shared values, create more opportunities for people and businesses on both sides of the border, and build strong economies as reliable suppliers as we move toward a net-zero world.” Trudeau noted that the agenda would include a discussion on the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership, which aims to advance bilateral cooperation on shared Canada-U.S. priorities, including climate change. There is also an expectation that the leaders will come out of this visit with an action plan on the development of critical minerals in North America, building off the Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals that was finalized during the final days of the Trump administration in 2020. The plan intends to advance bilateral interest in securing supply chains for the critical minerals needed for strategic manufacturing sectors. Both countries understand that collaboration in this area could attract major investment to North America, making this a key topic of discussion this week.
Additionally, Canada and the U.S. have been seized with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and providing support to President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people. The next steps for our countries’ continued support for Ukraine will be a major topic of discussion for the leaders. In fact, military and defence will be a topic that Trudeau and Biden will speak about during the two-day visit, as the White House said Biden intends to prioritize work with Canada to modernize the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). This comes at a time when NORAD was thrust into the public spotlight with a series of Chinese spy balloons entering North American airspace last month.
As Biden is more than halfway through his first term as president, this week’s official state visit has been long-awaited and long overdue. Thursday and Friday’s busy schedule will hopefully mean movement on all these essential Canada-U.S. priorities – and if anything – it will result in a renewed partnership between the two countries.