Biden’s Canadian agenda is busy: NORAD, migration deals, likely

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — President Joe Biden arrived in Canada Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on some of the world’s toughest challenges: the war in Ukraine, Climate change, trade, mass migration and an increasingly assertive China.

Two major deals appeared to be in hand before Biden left Washington. Canada will extend the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s military renewal deadline, and the two countries have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, U.S. and Canadian officials said. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

The migration deal would close a loophole in existing rules that would allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers at their borders. As a result of the loophole, thousands of migrants cross into Canada each year from the US at an unofficial checkpoint, allowing them to stay in the country while they seek asylum, instead of being processed while in the United States.

As part of the deal, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to enter the country, according to a Canadian official.

The new policy applies to non-citizens of the US or Canada who are apprehended within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries. Biden and Trudeau did not respond to reporters’ questions about the deal when the president and first lady Jill Biden arrived for a private gathering at the prime minister’s residence.

The White House declined to comment on the deal, which is expected to be formally announced on Friday.

The visit comes as the Biden administration has made strengthening relations with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides consider the meetings held in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunity to make future plans.

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After China’s spy bubble, national security and air defense are the most important Passed North America last month. Canada plans to upgrade its radar systems and has agreed to an accelerated timeline to spend billions more on military upgrades to NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent, according to a senior Canadian government official.

Canada announced last year that it would invest $3.8 billion (C$4.9 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD’s radar systems and billions after that, but David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said the existing A threat climate requires faster investment. .

A loophole in US-Canada migration rules has allowed thousands of migrants to cross into Canada from the US at an unofficial checkpoint, allowing them to stay in the country while they seek asylum, instead of being processed while in the United States.

A quirk of the 2002 agreement between the United States and Canada says that asylum seekers must apply in the first country they arrive in. Migrants who make it to the official crossing are turned back to the United States and told to apply there. But those arriving in Canada at a place other than the port of entry are allowed to remain and claim protection, as was done on the Roxam Road between Champlain, New York, and Quebec.

In 2022, more than 39,000 claims were made by people who were arrested by Canadian police, the vast majority of them in Quebec City and Roxas Road.

The expanded focus of Biden’s visit represents the evolution of the friendship between the two countries that spans more than 150 years. The focus was more often on issues such as trade, which defined relations between the two countries that share a 5,525-mile border.

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“This visit is a review of what we’ve done, where we are and what we need to prioritize going forward,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. “We are going to talk about how our two democracies will be strengthened to meet the challenges of our time.”

The focus will continue to be on trade, although Canada and the US see the partnership as crucial to supporting Ukraine. Against Russian invasion, reducing their dependence on Chinese goods, and shifting to cleaner energy sources in the face of planetary damage caused by burning fossil fuels.

Leaders are also discussing the use of critical minerals to enable the production of electric vehicles and military and economic commitments at what observers say is the most dangerous time since World War II. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin this week and pledged to deepen economic ties to help finance Putin’s ongoing war to seize Ukraine.

“The U.S. comes with big strategic issues,” said Vincent Rigby, Trudeau’s former national security adviser. “It’s a world where they’re looking for allies to help.”

Trade between the United States and Canada is expected to reach $950 billion (US$1.3 trillion) in 2022. About 400,000 people cross the world’s longest international border every day, and about 800,000 Canadian citizens live in the United States. There is close cooperation in defence, border security and law enforcement, and great overlap in culture, traditions and entertainment.

Biden will address parliament and Trudeau will host him at a state dinner on Friday night. This is Biden’s first visit to Canada since becoming president, but Trudeau also gave Biden a state dinner when he was vice president in December 2016, before Donald Trump took office.

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“There was no need for this to happen. It was an incredibly timely and wise investment on the part of the prime minister to do this, and I think it has paid off,” said Bruce Heyman, who was the US ambassador to Canada at the time.

Last year, the Biden Inflation Reduction Act freed Canada from restrictions on subsidizing electric vehicles. Heyman called it a big win for Canada.

The NORAD partnership was in the spotlight recently when NORAD tracked a suspected Chinese spy balloon that crossed two countries before crashing off the coast of South Carolina. Later, an American fighter jet shot down an unidentified flying object in Canadian airspace.

The British, Australians and Japanese are investing more in defense in response to threats from Beijing and Moscow, and the US expects its northern neighbor to do its part.

Canada has long faced calls to raise defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product, a target agreed by NATO members. Ottawa now spends about 1.2%. Canada announced in January that it would buy 88 F-35 fighter jets, but said at the time of the announcement that the first four would not arrive for three years.

The US is also pushing Canada to lead an international force in Haiti, but Canada’s top military official suggests the country lacks the capacity.


Associated Press writer Colin Long in Washington contributed to this report.

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