Biden's visit to Ottawa: Let's have modest expectations

Biden's visit to Ottawa: let's keep expectations low


Joe Biden is coming to Ottawa to recite the usual incantations on the strength of relations between the two countries. Expectations are modest.

Cordiality will reign between Biden and Justin Trudeau during this whirlwind visit. legislators and bureaucrats. 

Ritual visits

Since Harry Truman, the State visit to Ottawa has become a ritual for American presidents who recite there the usual incantations on the solidity of the bilateral relationship. A few presidents, including Donald Trump, have glossed over this ritual, and those who have been there barely mention these visits in their memoirs.

For example, the visit of John F. Kennedy was remembered for his famous speech in Parliament, but Kennedy himself had kept a bitter memory of it. Not only did he and John Diefenbaker hate each other, but the shovel of dirt Kennedy had kicked off in a mundane ceremony had revived an old back injury that plagued him until his death.

The visits of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. and their close relations with Brian Mulroney greatly changed the bilateral relationship.

That does not prevent the irritants we were discussing at the time (including wood agricultural markets, fisheries, the modest Canadian military contribution or maritime traffic in the Arctic) are still there. 

The new irritants

These traditional irritants will be on the agenda for Biden's visit, but new irritants will take up most of their discussions, with little they can do about them. 

On immigration and Roxham Road, one cannot expect more than vague declarations of intent. For Biden, the problems on the northern border are nothing compared to those on the southern border. In addition, since lasting solutions must pass through Congress, his promises will only be words.

The rhetoric about the fight against climate change will mask the reality of two governments defending their oil and gas producers. Biden may have encouraging words for Hydro-Quebec exports, but the real decisions are made in the states. 

The elephant in the room< /p>

We will also discuss NATO, Ukraine and the strategy to adopt in the face of the rise of China, but the sustainability of these commitments will depend on the return of a certain bipartisan consensus on American foreign policy, which is far from certain.

The elephant in the room during this summit in Ottawa will remain the always possible return of Trump or one of his disciples to the head of the United States, especially more than the return of the Trump circus, with the criminal charges hanging over the ex-president, will completely eclipse the trip to Ottawa in the American media. 

As long as Trumpism and the narrow nationalism that has become the trademark of Republicans will persist in the domestic political environment, the prospects for long-term collaboration with the United States, whether on major multilateral issues or on more limited bilateral issues, will remain extraordinarily uncertain.

Biden's visit to; Ottawa: let's have modest expectations