WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in the U.S. capital today to represent Canada at the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity summit.
The White House meeting, hosted by President Joe Biden, marks the first official gathering of all 12 countries in the hemispheric trade framework.
The partnership, known as APEP, marks the earliest beginnings of a north-south trade corridor meant to foster economic growth and strengthen supply chains.
The White House is hoping that in turn, more stability in South America and the Caribbean will help ease the pressure from irregular migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the framework includes Mexico, Chile, Barbados, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.
It’s not clear whether Biden and Trudeau will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one on the margins of the half-day summit.
“We’re glad to have the participation of all members of the partnership here for this summit — a majority of them will be at the leader level,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
He called it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to establish vital supply chains in the Americas, confront the migration problem and “build meaningful economic opportunity across the hemisphere.”
Trudeau is also likely to seize the chance to promote Canada as a worthy destination for what the Prime Minister’s Office called “responsible and sustainable investments” to strengthen supply chains.
“There is no better time to work together toward achieving a prosperous, strong and resilient future for our hemisphere,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with APEP leaders … to advance important issues such as sustainable economic growth, climate adaptation and mitigation, and expand trade and investment ties in the region.”
Business leaders in Canada, however, see a worrisome foreign-policy irritant on the horizon: a federal digital services tax that U.S. critics and officials say unfairly targets their country’s burgeoning tech sector.
The tax, scheduled to take effect in January, is fostering bad bilateral blood at the worst possible time, Business Council of Canada president Goldy Hyder wrote Thursday in a letter to Trudeau.
Instead, Canada should agree to U.S. demands that the tax be held in abeyance until a global taxation framework being developed within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development can be introduced.
“Canada’s economic interests will be severely harmed if Canada continues to defy the overwhelming OECD consensus,” Hyder wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to The Canadian Press.
“Amid growing economic uncertainty around the globe, Canada cannot afford a costly trade war with our most important trading partner.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen warned that a serious trade dispute could be brewing if the two countries can’t come to an understanding before the tax kicks in early next year.
“That will be an area of contention unless it is resolved,” Cohen told audience members after a luncheon speech at the Canadian Club in Ottawa.
“There’s a place where we’re either going to have to have agreement, or we’re going to have a big fight.”
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday she’s “cautiously optimistic” that a solution can be found before the end of the year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2023.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press