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Canada-U.S. border concerns among Biden’s official visit talking points


President of the USA Joe Biden heads north next week for his first visit to Canada as president. Ahead of the visit, both countries are discussing a wide range of potential topics, from migration policy to continued support for Ukraine.

Details of the upcoming visit, on March 23 and 24, were confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the White House on Thursday last week. The trip also includes an address to Parliament.

The two world leaders have had chances to connect over the past two years. Biden’s first “virtual” international bilateral was with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February 2022, when both countries were still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Biden and Trudeau have met at various international events, but there was no trip dedicated to US-Canada relations.

“To me, it’s overdue … if it wasn’t for COVID, it should have happened immediately,” said Chris Sands, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. “Trump has never made a state visit, when he went to Canada in 2018 it was for the G7 and it ended badly. The last elected national figure to visit Canada was Biden in 2016 at the end of the Obama administration.”

Sands described the gap between visits by US presidents north of the border as “a sort of interlude” for state visits. “The problem is that presidents and prime ministers see each other in all kinds of other things … The importance of the trip is to greet Canadians,” he added.

Here are some cross-border issues that should be discussed during the visit:


The United States and Canada are pressing to address the sharp increase in irregular migration rates on both sides of the US-Canada border.

US Customs and Border Protection reports 846 percent increase in irregular crossings from Canada along a section of the Northeast border. The flow of asylum seekers entering Canada from the USA has also increased. About 40,000 last year, many at irregular border crossings such as Roxham Road on the Quebec-Vermont border.

“Those increases in arrivals are quite dramatic … for Canada, they are significant,” said Susan Fratzke, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

The border problem opens a new line of attack for the opposition of both countries. “This is Joe Biden’s border crisis,” New York Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said at the launch of the Republican Northern Border Caucus last month. “What the Biden administration needs to do is focus on border security and admit that we have a problem.”

Conservatives in Canada echo this sentiment. “If we are a real country, we have borders. And if this is a real prime minister, he’s responsible for those borders,” Conservative leader Pierre Poulevre told reporters in Ottawa last month.

Canada’s immigration minister, Sean Fraser, met with his American counterparts in Washington last week, and work continues on a “permanent solution.” But with Quebec bearing the brunt of the migrant surge, Premier Francois Legault urged the prime minister to prioritize renegotiations in decades. The old asylum agreement during Biden’s visit.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, individuals are required to seek asylum in the first safe country they enter, preventing migrants from transiting through the United States to seek asylum from Canada. The question: the claim must be at the legal boundary crossing point.

“The only way to effectively close not just Roxham Road, but the entire border with these irregular crossings, is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement,” Trudeau told reporters last month.

However, Fratzke says it’s not that easy. “It might send a message…but even if it changes, it’s likely that people will still try to get through in different ways,” he added.


Another potential theme is the transition to clean energy and essential minerals. These are critical components of green technologies, from solar panels to electric car batteries, and a potentially growing source of middle-class jobs. Canada is home to nearly half of the world’s publicly listed mining and mineral exploration companies. This represents a total market capitalization of $520 billion. Under the Canadian Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy.

A big component of that strategy is the minerals value chain that keeps mining, refining and manufacturing in Canada, but the process is not without delays.

“It’s kind of a sticking point … America’s position, Canada in general, has been a little disappointing. It’s not that they don’t have it, they just don’t move fast enough,” Sands said. “The American process is also a mess, but the United States is moving faster to develop important minerals.”

Canada also has issues with the Americans, like parts of the US Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions in subsidies to boost EV battery production in America.

“Because of their size, which is 10 times the size of Canada in terms of population, it’s a huge effort for our government to be competitive in that area.” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens told CTV News earlier this month.

“Canada would like to turn the issue to American subsidies, America can always subsidize,” Sands said. “I think there’s a good case that, as an industrial policy, the US is defeating its purpose … all of them [they’re] This simply shifts EV battery factories to the United States at the expense of South Korea, Europe and Canada. It will not create more.’

Developing the electric vehicle sector is a priority for the Liberal government. Just this week, Volkswagen chose St. Thomas, Ont. for its first EV battery factory. The battery plant is expected to be operational next year, and federal and provincial officials called the decision a “big vote of confidence” in Canada’s electricity sector.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for those companies to create between us.” Stephen McKenzie, CEO of Invest WindsorEssex, told CTV News.

The St. Thomas plant isn’t the only power plant with money pouring into it. Further east in Nova Scotia, Michelin announced it is spending $140 million upgrading its Bridgewater plant to make more tires for electric vehicles.


Internationally, the war in Ukraine is also likely to rise during these meetings. A year after the conflict, the United States and Canada continue to express a desire to hold Moscow accountable for its actions, with both countries accusing Russia of war crimes.

There are reports that the International Criminal Court plans to open an investigation against Russia, which was previously requested by Canada. The United States is not a member of the ICC, but is considering ways to help the court.

Canada also continues to support Ukraine. Canadian troops have trained thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and provided more than a billion dollars in military aid, including eight Leopard 2 tanks.

On NATO’s eastern flank, Ottawa also plans to double its presence in Latvia. Defense Minister Anita Anand recently announced the planned purchase of man-portable anti-tank missiles, anti-drone technology and air defense systems for the NATO mission in the country.

The ongoing crisis in Haiti is also likely to come up during the talks. There are reports that Biden administration officials are pressuring Ottawa to decide whether to lead a multinational force to help the country fight gang control.

In January, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Canada was interested in taking a leadership role. Canada’s top general recently told Reuters he was concerned the country lacked the ability to lead the mission in Haiti beyond supporting Ukraine and NATO.

“There’s a lot to go around … it’s going to be difficult,” Chief of Defense Staff Wayne Eyre told Reuters.

Both leaders are expected to discuss the modernization of Norad more closely. It will be their first meeting since the downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon and three other unidentified floating objects that have struck both US and Canadian airspace for days.

“The Chinese hot air balloon got people’s attention and caused Canada to say, yes, wait a minute, this is a threat … we need to spend more money,” Sands said.


The two-day trip should provide an opportunity for both countries to resolve simmering tensions and improve relations on both sides of the border.

In a briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said the visit will “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the US-Canada partnership and advance our shared security, shared prosperity and shared values.”

Trudeau said in a statement that he looks forward to welcoming Biden to Canada, adding: “We will continue to work together as we protect our continent and our shared values, creating more opportunities for people and businesses on both sides of the border.”

While Sands said there was nothing on the agenda that was a “full-blown crisis,” he described relations between the two countries as “not great, but good.”

“I think we’re just in a period where our internal differences are worse than our bilateral ones. And so we’re going to kind of just keep the bilateral relationship going and try to defuse any potential crisis,” Sands said.

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