President Biden on Thursday brushed aside the U.S.’ strained relationships with Canada and Mexico, focusing instead on the countries’ agreements when it comes to the supply chain chaos and climate change.
In remarks ahead of his trilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mr. Biden emphasized all three nations’ common goals.
“Our North American vision for the future draws on our shared strengths as well as three vibrant democracies with dynamic populations and economy wishing to work together,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “We can meet all the challenges if we just take the time to speak with one another.”
In the first meeting since 2016 between the leaders of three nations — known as three amigos — some of the more intense spats between the countries were kept out of public view.
“We are three countries with extremely strong ties between our people with our visions and values for the future strongly united,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Still, Mr. Biden’s electric vehicle tax credit proposal loomed large over the meeting. It had been a source of economic tension for several weeks.
Mr. Biden has proposed a tax credit for union-made electric vehicles, one of several incentives to boost the purchase of U.S. goods tucked inside his $1.75 trillion tax and spending bill.
The president wants to offer consumers up to $12,500 in tax credits if they buy electric vehicles assembled by union workers using American-built batteries. Electric vehicles made in nonunion factors would qualify for a credit worth about $4,500 less.
Canadian and Mexican officials say the proposal violates the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA. The pact is a Trump-era agreement that reworked the long disparaged North American Free Trade Agreement that critics say benefited the U.S. the least among the three countries.
America’s neighbors also alleged that Mr. Biden’s tax credit would hurt U.S. companies that supply Canadian and Mexican automobile plants and disrupt the trade deal.
Mr. Biden on Thursday refused to say if he would consider a carve-out for automobiles manufactured in Canada or Mexico.
“We’re going to talk about that to some extent,” Mr. Biden said when reports asked about the dispute.
Ahead of his trip to Washington, Mr. Trudeau said the plan would have a “real negative impact.” He said his goal for the summit was to make sure Mr. Biden understands that working together to fight climate change is “good for all of us.”
Mr. Obrador, meanwhile, focused on boosting economic trade among the three nations, saying it was necessary for North America to stay competitive with China.
“Economic integration and full respect for our sovereignty is the best instrument to face the competition stemmed from growth in other regions around the world, especially the productive and commercial expansion of China,” he said through a translator.