Montreal, Canada – In 1969, then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau described Canada’s proximity to the United States as a kind of sleeping with an elephant: “It doesn’t matter how friendly or in the mood the beast is. equal … we are affected by every jerk and growl.
Decades later, with Joe Biden in the White House, the “elephant” of southern Canada will be at least more predictable than it was under Donald Trump, said Daniel Beland, director of the McGill Institute for study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal. .
“The Trump years have been very tough in terms of Canada-US relations. It was a roller coaster, ”Beland told Al Jazeera. “With Biden, it’s a return to more stability in Canada-US relations.”
Biden’s decision to hold his first official meeting with a foreign head of government – with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Tuesday is part of this return to a more predictable relationship between the two neighbors, Beland said.
Most US presidents stay close to home on their first trip abroad, with many heading to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, in the first few months of their tenure – although Trump avoided this tradition when he made his first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
While Biden and Trudeau will meet virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Beland said choosing Canada sends a message. “It’s Biden who is sticking to the tradition and I think that sends the signal that Canada is still an important partner of the United States,” he said.
The two countries share the longest land border in the world, and bilateral trade between them totaled $ 725 billion in 2019, or nearly $ 2 billion per day, according to US Department of State figures.
The relationship was tested under the Trump administration – which forced Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel .
As Trudeau made sure to maintain cordial relations with Trump, the ex-president called Trudeau “two-sided»In 2019 after the broadcast of a video showing the Canadian Prime Minister laughing with other world leaders on a Trump press conference at a NATO summit in London. The two leaders were quick to downplay the petty public argument.
Nonetheless, Canada-US relations remained strong during the Trump years. But now Trudeau has more in common with Biden than with Trump, said Donald Abelson, director of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
He pointed out that the two leaders have met in person before – when Biden was US vice president – and they got along well.
“It is very important when you focus on the bilateral relationship between the two countries to have a Prime Minister and a President who get along, and who are able to identify common concerns and find constructive ways to move forward. forward, ”Abelson told Al Jazeera.
Canada and the United States share one of the strongest and deepest friendships between two countries in the world. Tuesday I will meet virtually @POTUS @Joe Biden – we will focus on ending the pandemic, growing the middle class and creating jobs, and fighting climate change.
– Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 20, 2021
Ahead of their Tuesday meeting, leaders said they looked forward to deepening relations between countries, and Trudeau said they would discuss ways to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, create jobs and to fight against climate change.
The United States and Canada are working to secure COVID-19 vaccines to bring the pandemic under control, and are looking for ways to help boost their hard-hit economies. The Canada-U.S. Border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least March 21 due to the coronavirus, however, Canadian officials said this week.
Abelson also said the two leaders would discuss energy policy, as well as the Biden administration’s willingness to re-engage with multilateral institutions, such as NATO and the United Nations – something which suffered under Trump.
However, close ties don’t mean Biden and Trudeau will agree on everything.
Trudeau expressed disappointment last month, when Biden nixed Keystone XL, a controversial 1,947 km (1,210 mile) pipeline that was to stretch from the Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was particularly angered by the move.
Trudeau will also be keen to ensure that trade with Canada remains a priority for Biden amid a growing “Buy America” movement that seeks to put American producers first.
“Prime Minister Trudeau wants to make sure Canadian producers are not left out of the equation,” Abelson told Al Jazeera.
Beland added that Trudeau will have to exercise caution as he tries to create an economic recovery.
“We have to be diplomatic because we realize that if the relationship between the two countries is spoiled… it can be really expensive,” he said. “In this time of a pandemic like this, we really need to work with the United States on border control and public health issues, but especially on economic issues.”
China will also be a topic of discussion on Tuesday, Beland said.
Tensions have intensified between Ottawa and Beijing since 2018, when Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians after law enforcement arrested Huawei leader Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request.
The United States has charged Meng with fraud – a charge she denies – and her extradition case is still in Canadian court, while Canada has alleged China’s detention. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Beijing, which has accused the spy pair, rejects this accusation.
Canada, the United States and 56 other countries last week signed on a non-binding resolution denouncing arbitrary detention for political purposes. While the signatories said the measure applied to countries around the world, it was seen as a rebuke from China.
“The Huawei case is directly related to an extradition order from the United States, so I think the United States could do a little bit here to facilitate the release of the two Michaels, or at least help with the situation because they have much more weight than [Canada has], Ended up saying.
Tensions between Canada and China are likely to escalate after Canadian Parliament past a non-binding motion on Monday describing Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in western Xinjiang province as genocide.
Before the motion was passed, Cong Peiwu, the Chinese Ambassador to Canada, dismissed the genocide charge and urged Ottawa to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” to avoid aggravating the relations between countries.