Canada’s Trudeau heads to Washington for 'Three Amigos' summit

Canadian prime minister will meet congressional leaders on Wednesday before conference with presidents of US and Mexico

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Washington for two days of high-level meetings that will culminate with the first “Three Amigos” summit in five years between Mr Trudeau, US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

On Wednesday, the prime minister will tour the Capitol building and meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

While the trip marks a return to warmer relations between Canada and the US after four divisive years under former president Donald Trump, several difficult issues will be at play at the summit.

One of Mr Biden’s first moves in the Oval Office was to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline, dealing a devastating blow to Canada’s energy sector and costing the country more than 1,000 jobs.

There is concern the US may shut down another pipeline, the Enbridge Line 5, which brings petroleum from western to eastern Canada through the US state of Michigan.

Another issue that is likely to be tabled is Mr Biden's Build Back Better legislation, which Mr Schumer said they hope to pass before Christmas.

If passed, a sizeable tax credit is offered to those buying electric vehicles manufactured in the US, which could negatively affect Canada’s auto industry.

Ottawa's ambassador to Washington, Kristen Hillman, told the CBC that the tax credits could violate the free trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico.

“We're still working hard to make sure that all of the relevant decisionmakers realise that this isn't good for US jobs, it isn't good for our shared commitments to environmental protection and [electric vehicle] transitions and, frankly, it runs in the face of the commitments we've just made under [the free trade agreement]," said Ms Hillman.

The next two days will be crucial for Mr Trudeau as he aims to steer the Biden administration away from protectionist policies.

"We're seeing an administration that really does favour this kind of 'Made in America' approach, talking about changing some of their rules globally to give them more flexibility in that space," said Trevor Kennedy of the Business Council of Canada.

"And that's where we need to either push back in whole or find areas where Canada can fit in because we can make a good case that our relationship is different and is clearly beneficial for American workers."

While there is much at stake over the next two days, Mr Trudeau is coming into the summit with some bragging rights: on Tuesday night, the Canadian men’s football team beat the Mexican national team 2-1 and currently sits at the top of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier.

Updated: November 17th 2021, 3:31 PM