White House signals hard line on Buy American as Ottawa urged to push for exemption

Hard line on Buy American

The White House isn't leaving much wiggle room for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to escape Joe Biden's Buy American rules.

The two leaders are set to meet virtually later today in Biden's first bilateral meeting since taking over as U.S. president.

A fact sheet released early today by the White House describes plans for a "road map" for progress in areas of mutual interest, like COVID-19, climate change, defence and social justice.

It makes no mention of certain Canadian priorities, such as procuring more vaccine doses, freeing Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from China or securing an exemption to Buy American.

Experts want Ottawa to push hard for an exemption so Canada isn't impacted by Biden's plan to prioritize U.S. businesses for federal infrastructure and procurement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says no immediate changes to the regime are on the horizon.

"He signed an executive order; we're of course evaluating procurement components of that, but no changes anticipated," Psaki said Monday.

Trudeau is likely to ask Biden to ease restrictions on U.S. vaccine exports, since Canada has been squeezed by production problems in Europe, and for more help in bringing Spavor and Kovrig home.

They were detained in an apparent act of retaliation for Canada agreeing to arrest and detain Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to await extradition south of the border, where she's accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

On that point, Psaki would only say, "The prime minister will bring up whatever he would like to bring up, as is true of any bilateral meeting."

Much has been made in recent weeks of the "shared vision" between Trudeau and Biden, particularly when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and restoring faith in multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization and the UN.

Not surprisingly, that's precisely where the White House appears to be focusing its attention.

"The road map is a blueprint for our whole-of-government relationship, based on our shared values and commitment to work in partnership on areas of mutual concern," it said in its fact sheet.

The fact sheet lays out six priority areas, including beating back the pandemic, rebuilding the economy "on both sides of the border," and plans for a "high-level climate ministerial" meeting to align efforts to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Other areas include improving social diversity and inclusion, expanded co-operation on continental defence and a modernized NORAD, and restoring a collective commitment to global institutions like NATO and the WTO.

It also indicates plans to resurrect the North American Leaders' Summit — a trilateral meeting of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, more commonly known as the "Three Amigos" summit, which hasn't been convened since 2016.

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