Montreal, Canada – In 1969, then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau famously described Canada’s proximity to the USA as akin to sleeping with an elephant: “Regardless of how pleasant or even-tempered is the beast … one is affected by each twitch and grunt.”
Many years later, with Joe Biden within the White Home, the “elephant” to Canada’s south will no less than be extra predictable than it was underneath Donald Trump, mentioned Daniel Beland, director of the McGill Institute for the Examine of Canada at McGill College in Montreal.
“The Trump years have been very laborious by way of Canada-US relations. It was a rollercoaster,” Beland informed Al Jazeera. “With Biden, it’s a return to extra stability in Canada-US relations.”
Biden’s choice to carry his first official meeting with a overseas head of presidency – with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – on Tuesday is a part of that return to a extra predictable relationship between the 2 neighbours, Beland mentioned.
Most US presidents keep near house on their first journey overseas, with many flying to Ottawa, the Canadian capital, inside their first months in workplace – although Trump eschewed that custom when he took his inaugural journey overseas to Saudi Arabia in 2017.
Whereas Biden and Trudeau will meet nearly as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, Beland mentioned selecting Canada sends a message. “It’s Biden sticking to custom and I believe that is sending a sign that Canada remains to be an vital companion of the USA,” he mentioned.
The 2 international locations share the world’s longest land border and bilateral commerce between them totalled $725bn in 2019 – virtually $2bn a day, according to US State Division figures.
The connection was examined underneath the Trump administration – which pressured Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Commerce Settlement (NAFTA) and imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminium and metal.
Whereas Trudeau was cautious to take care of cordial relations with Trump, the ex-president known as Trudeau “two-faced” in 2019 after a video surfaced exhibiting the Canadian prime minister laughing with different world leaders a couple of Trump information convention throughout a NATO summit in London. The 2 leaders have been fast to downplay the minor public spat.
Nonetheless, US-Canada ties remained robust throughout the Trump years. However now, Trudeau has extra in frequent with Biden than he did with Trump, mentioned Donald Abelson, director of the Brian Mulroney Institute of Authorities at St Francis Xavier College in Nova Scotia.
He identified that the 2 leaders have met in-person earlier than – when Biden served as US vice chairman – and so they get alongside nicely.
“It’s crucial once you deal with the bilateral relationship between the 2 international locations to have a first-rate minister and a president who get alongside, and who’re capable of determine frequent issues and discover constructive methods to maneuver ahead,” Abelson informed Al Jazeera.
Canada and the US share one of many strongest and deepest friendships between any two international locations on the earth. On Tuesday, I’ll be assembly nearly with @POTUS @JoeBiden – we’ll deal with ending the pandemic, rising the center class and creating jobs, and preventing local weather change.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 20, 2021
Earlier than their assembly on Tuesday, the leaders mentioned they seemed ahead to deepening the connection between the international locations, and Trudeau mentioned they might talk about methods to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, create jobs and struggle local weather change.
Each the US and Canada are working to safe COVID-19 vaccines to get the pandemic underneath management and methods to assist spur their hard-hit economies. The US-Canada border will stay closed to non-essential journey till no less than March 21 as a result of coronavirus, nevertheless, Canadian officers mentioned this week.
Abelson additionally mentioned the 2 leaders would talk about power coverage, in addition to the Biden administration’s push to re-engage with multilateral establishments, corresponding to NATO and the United Nations – one thing that suffered underneath Trump.
Shut ties don’t imply Biden and Trudeau will agree on all the pieces although.
Trudeau expressed disappointment final month when Biden nixed Keystone XL, a contentious 1,947-km (1,210-mile) pipeline that was set to stretch from the Canadian province of Alberta to the US state of Nebraska. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was particularly angered by that call.
Trudeau can even be keen to make sure commerce with Canada stays a precedence for Biden amid a rising “Purchase America” motion that goals to prioritise US producers.
“Prime Minister Trudeau desires to ensure that Canadian producers are usually not minimize out of the equation,” Abelson informed Al Jazeera.
Beland added Trudeau might want to tread rigorously as he tries to engineer an financial restoration.
“We’ve to be diplomatic as a result of we realise that if the connection between the 2 international locations is spoiled … it may be actually pricey,” he mentioned. “In instances of pandemic like this, we actually must collaborate with the US on problems with border management and public well being, however particularly on financial points.”
China can even be a subject of debate on Tuesday, mentioned Beland.
Tensions have escalated between Ottawa and Beijing since 2018, when Chinese language authorities detained two Canadians after legislation enforcement officers arrested Huawei govt Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request.
The US has accused Meng of fraud – a cost she denies – and her extradition case remains to be earlier than a Canadian courtroom, whereas Canada has alleged China detained Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Beijing, which has accused the pair of spying, rejects that accusation.
Canada, the US and 56 different nations last week signed onto a non-binding decision denouncing arbitrary detention for political functions. Whereas the signatories mentioned the measure utilized to international locations around the globe, it was seen as a rebuke of China.
“The Huawei affair is immediately associated to an extradition order from the US, so I believe the US may do fairly a bit right here to facilitate the discharge of the 2 Michaels, or no less than assist with the state of affairs as a result of they’ve far more weight than [Canada has],” Beland mentioned.
Canada-China tensions are more likely to escalate additional after the Canadian parliament passed a non-binding movement on Monday describing Beijing’s remedy of its Uighur Muslim minority within the western province of Xinjiang as genocide.
Earlier than the movement was handed, Cong Peiwu, China’s ambassador to Canada, rejected the genocide accusation and urged Ottawa to “cease interfering in China’s inner affairs” to keep away from worsening the international locations’ relationship.