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Biden to host Three Amigos summit with the leaders of Canada and Mexico


The leaders of Mexico and Canada will be at the White House today. President Biden is hosting the first North American leaders' summit since 2016. Once upon a time, these were pretty regular gatherings. But the Trump administration stopped doing them. And so the Biden administration is casting this one as kind of a fresh start. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is with us. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: What does President Biden want to get from this meeting?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, this is a chance for him to reassure two of the most important trade and security partners that they can count on the U.S. Biden will meet with each of them privately. And then he's going to meet with all of them together. The White House wants to put this trilateral relationship back on more solid footing, you know, like it once was. The interests of the United States are really clear. There are significant migration and security issues to be worked out with Mexico. And there's a deep economic relationship with Canada. In a briefing last night, senior administration officials talked about some of the specifics they'll discuss, including a pledge to reduce methane emissions, to share COVID vaccines and to manage migration.

KING: The last four years were contentious among these three countries. The U.S. had a contentious president in Donald Trump. Were the relationships that the U.S. has with Canada and Mexico damaged?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. You know, there are some real scars left over from Trump's time. The two countries really didn't like how Trump forced through the trade deal that replaced NAFTA. And in the case of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, there were some personal attacks. I spoke with Benjamin Gedan, who led Latin America policy in the Obama White House. He told me that President Biden has to build up trust to reassure Canada and Mexico that the U.S. is going to be a consistent partner going forward.

BENJAMIN GEDAN: These were dynamics that were long taken for granted. But now, after imposing tariffs on steel from Canada and claiming it was necessary for national security not to depend on the Canadians, these leaders are left with the impression that the United States is not the ally that it once was.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, Gedan told me that this is similar to Biden's America is Back campaign with Europe.

KING: OK. What do you anticipate Mexico and Canada will bring up?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he'll ask Biden for his support so that undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. have a chance to readjust their legal status. Also, both Canada and Mexico are concerned about U.S. proposals to offer tax credits for electric vehicles. But that would only be available for cars made in the U.S. with union later. And there's a feeling that Biden's willingness to work with his neighbors only goes so far. Here's Eric Miller (ph), a trade consultant who speaks regularly with the Canadian government.

ERIC MILLER: If you talk quietly with Canadian officials, what their frustration really is is that the Biden administration is happy to work with Canada on issues that it wants to work on, but is less willing to listen closely to the issues that Canada wants to work on.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, energy is another big area. Canada is worried about efforts to shut down another pipeline going through Michigan.

KING: And if we're talking about the U.S., Mexico and Canada, of course, we're talking about one other really big economic issue at the moment.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Biden has talked a lot about fixing supply chains, you know, to help with inflation. You know, these allies think that it can be an integrated effort. And to that end, senior administration officials said on the call that they'll start a North American supply chain working group. The reality is, as Biden has looked to bring more manufacturing to the United States, Mexico and Canada have grown more worried about a rise in protectionism. So I'm going to be watching how that comes up today.

KING: Yeah. That'll be interesting. NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.