Politics

Biden offers sympathies to people affected by B.C. floods, says Canada and U.S. in sync on climate change

United States President Joe Biden said Canada and the U.S. are united in their efforts to fight global warming and offered his sympathies to Canadians affected by flooding and landslides in B.C. — a disaster experts have linked to climate change.

Ottawa is fighting a proposed tax incentive that would apply only to American-made electric vehicles

President Joe Biden shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

United States President Joe Biden said today that Canada and the U.S. are united in their efforts to fight global warming and offered his sympathies to Canadians affected by flooding and landslides in B.C. — a disaster experts have linked to climate change.

Biden made the remarks at the White House ahead of his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both leaders will join Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador later today for the first North American Leaders' Summit in five years.

"I know we are both keeping our minds close to the families affected by the storms flooding the British Columbia area in the Pacific northwest, but one of the things we spent time on, on our global agenda, is climate change," Biden said during the brief press appearance with Trudeau.

"We've spent a lot of time dealing with [climate change] and we are on the same page as to the need for us to move on it, and get the rest of the world to move."

Biden said he was pleased to invite Trudeau to Washington, adding he's been friends with the prime minister for a while.

"This is one of the easiest relationships you can have as an American president, one of the best," Biden said.

Trudeau's brief trip to Washington culminated Thursday evening with the North American Leaders Summit, which began shortly after 5 p.m. ET at the White House.

Summits between the three nations have been criticized in the past for favouring symbolism over substance, but this year's edition comes as Canada makes an aggressive push against one of U.S. President Joe Biden's signature protectionist policies.

U.S. lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on a nearly $2 trillion US infrastructure bill, which as it stands contains a new electric vehicle incentive that Ottawa says could wreak havoc on Canada's auto sector and violate the new NAFTA.

The proposed incentive would eventually give American buyers a $12,500 US rebate on the purchase of new EVs, but only if the vehicles are produced in the United States.

Watch: Trudeau, Biden meet during the North American Leaders' Summit in Oval Office.:

Trudeau, Biden meet during the North American Leaders' Summit in Oval Office.

9 days ago
4:39
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss various issues, including climate change, trade and the future of the bilateral relationship. 4:39

The Canadian government argues that the incentive threatens decades of co-operation between the two nations in the auto sector and could lead to job losses on both sides of the border. Mexico also opposes the plan.

Trudeau and his ministers pressed that point with Biden administration officials, including U.S. cabinet secretaries, during a gathering at the Canadian ambassador's residence in Washington D.C. Wednesday evening, according to sources.

At that gathering, Canadian officials argued that because the rebate favours U.S.-built cars, it's worse for Canada than any trade threat made by the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Reporters pressed Biden today on whether his administration will carve out an exemption for Canada on the electric vehicle tax break. The president would only say that he planned to discuss the issue today with Trudeau.

EV incentive could become 'dominant' issue: Freeland

During a Wednesday evening news conference in Washington, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland indicated that fighting the EV incentive will remain her government's top priority during its time in Washington.

"The way they have formulated this incentive really, really has the potential to become the dominant issue in our bilateral relationship," Freeland said.

"The EV incentives — as they are currently formulated — we are certain are a violation of the new NAFTA agreement."

Trudeau is also expected to raise concerns about the future of the Line 5 pipeline, which transports oil to Eastern Canada.

WATCH | Biden's EV tax incentive worries some trade partners:

Biden’s EV tax incentive creates tension ahead of North America summit

10 days ago
1:56
On the eve of a North American Leaders’ Summit, U.S. President Joe Biden’s big tax incentive for U.S.-produced electric vehicles is creating tension, with some saying it’s a job killer for the Canadian auto industry. 1:56

Michigan is trying to shut down a portion of the line that runs under the Great Lakes. Canada wants to keep the pipeline flowing and recently invoked a 1977 treaty in its bid to preserve the status quo.

A senior U.S administration official declined to discuss details about Line 5 during a call with reporters on Wednesday, citing the recently invoked treaty. 

"What I will say is the president and the prime minister have an excellent relationship. They've known each other for a very long time, and we're prepared to discuss anything the prime minister is ready to raise," the official said.

There are also expectations that Trudeau and López Obrador will make an announcement about sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses that were donated by the United States. They plan to share those doses with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the senior official said.

Trudeau met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier in the day in Washington. Going into that meeting, the prime minister said he was looking forward to talking with Obrador because they "agree and align" on many topics.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pose for a photo before a meeting on Thursday, November 18, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

After that meeting, Mexico's Ambassador to Canada Juan Jose Gomez Camacho said López Obrador believes Canada and Mexico can share lessons-learned on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples because both leaders have made that a priority for their governments.

Today's meeting was Trudeau's first in-person sit-down with López Obrador, who has been Mexico's president since December 2018.

The leaders of North America's largest nations will have gone 1,968 days since their last trilateral meeting. Trump spurned the summit during his presidency.

With files from the CBC's J.P. Tasker and Alexander Panetta, and the Canadian Press

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