U.S. President Joe Biden has made his first official visit to Canada, complete with an address to Parliament, some quality time with Prime Minister Trudeau and his family, bilateral meetings, and a state dinner to cap it all off. Unfortunately, the President’s busy schedule did not allow him time to sample the Moulin de Provence’s famous Obama Cookies, but he does get to take home a sweet treat from Peace by Chocolate.
It’s been a while since the last official visit from a President, which makes this one a bit more consequential —or a “BFD” as President Biden might say. Historically, many presidents have made Canada their first stop post-election, as a sign of the uniquely important relationship between our two countries.
It’s no secret that this relationship suffered under the Trump Presidency, and many north of the 49th parallel breathed a sigh of relief when President Biden was elected. The return of a perceived statesman to the White House, who would bring a more predictable and rational approach to governing, was a welcome change.
However, the Biden Administration has made some notable departures from the previous Obama era, namely continuing or advancing protectionist policies. The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act has created a fresh challenge for Canadian politicos who hoped for a reprieve after the bruising years of the Trump Administration and renegotiation of NAFTA (now, CUSMA).
There was a lot riding on this presidential visit, for both Trudeau and Biden. Our beleaguered Prime Minister needed some good news, as his government continues to deal with the fallout from the allegations of electoral interference by the Chinese. This successful visit from the President could be just the thing to bring renewed energy and optimism to the once-sunny-ways PM.
Similarly, Biden faces no shortage of political hot potatoes of his own, including a divided Congress. As he prepares to formally announce his 2024 intentions, an international win may help settle some of his domestic political issues.
The leaders covered a lot of ground in their short time together. Before Biden had even arrived in Canada, it was announced that Canada and the U.S. had reached a deal regarding the Safe Third Country Agreement, to stop the flow of irregular border crossings at Roxham Road. During their meetings with various Cabinet officials from both countries, NORAD modernization and national security concerns took up a big chunk of their time, with the Prime Minister’s Office announcing a variety of investments for modernizing NORAD, protecting the Arctic, and supporting the Haitian National Police, which the Biden Administration had been pushing for. Critical minerals and shoring up the semiconductor supply chains were also highlighted, as the North American auto industry transitions toward zero emission vehicles.
Many had wondered where the Canada-U.S. relationship would go after the Trump Era, and this visit should assure North American political watchers that the State of the North American Union is very good. Standing ovations were the theme of Biden’s address to Parliament, even after a dig at the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a state dinner at the Aviation and Space Museum was a cheery cherry on top of a visit where both President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau can claim wins.