The Three Amigos summit has suffered from inconsistency and a lack of results. The gathering has been mostly symbolic, but even within symbolism, this might be the best summit yet.
This is the first summit in 2 years, thanks to Stephen Harper giving little concern to canceling the summit in 2015. This will be the first Three Amigos summit for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the last summit for U.S. President Barack Obama. Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto hosted the summit in 2014, his only Three Amigos summit. The "youth" dynamic offers up potential: Obama is 54, Peña Nieto is 49, and Trudeau is 45.
Peña Nieto has been in Canada all week with a visit to Quebec City to meet with Governor General David Johnston and Quebec premier Philippe Couillard, a dinner in Toronto with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and a bilateral meeting and state dinner in Ottawa yesterday. The two leaders are seen here running across the Alexandra Bridge from Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec.
Mexico and Canada pulled off an unofficial trade. Mexico got Canada to drop the visa requirement for tourists on December 1. Canada had been concerned over weak passport controls and increased asylum seekers. The latter reason was a major push behind the visas restrictions by the Harper Government in 2009. Canada is also concerned on how the U.S. would look at lifting those visas in terms of Mexican criminals working their way to the U.S. through Canada.
Mexico will accept Canadian beef starting in October. The Mexico ban on Canadian cattle over 30 months of age had been in effect since 2003 over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Obama sweeps into Ottawa today with a bilateral meeting with Mexico, the Three Amigos working session, a joint press conference, and finally his speech before Parliament. This will be the first time a U.S. president will speak before the Canadian Parliament since Bill Clinton in 1995.
Here are the U.S. presidents who have addressed a joint session of Parliament: Harry Truman (1947); Dwight Eisenhower (1953, 1958); John F. Kennedy (1961); Richard Nixon (1972); Ronald Reagan (1981, 1987); and Bill Clinton (1995)
Clean energy and climate policy will be part of the discussion at the summit in Ottawa. The U.S. and Canada want Mexico to join the methane reduction deal agreed upon by the other two countries. The countries will work on reducing opium poppy cultivation and heroin; the opioid fentanyl has lead to a number of deaths in Canada.
Trudeau and Obama had their own discussions when Trudeau was in Washington for a White House state dinner in March, helping the conversation between those countries.
One area of agreement between the governments of the three countries is a universal anti-Donald Trump stance.
As we noted last week, the ideal goal of labour mobility as part of NAFTA and Three Amigos suffered a setback with the Brexit vote. Then again, the advantages of workers flowing between borders got a lot of appreciation as a result of the vote. Workers mobility is possible with the U.S. and Canada though not likely Mexico, especially on the heels of the anti-immigrant push among conservative Republicans led by Trump and similar concerns in Europe, in the wake of the Brexit vote.
While the sentiment isn't as fierce in Canada, the three leaders need to acknowledge and deal with the frustration of those left economically behind, especially from trade deals such as NAFTA.
We're hoping the Ottawa sinkhole doesn't become a symbol of the 2016 Three Amigos summit, but having the summit on Canadian soil is a very big deal.
While the countries rotate the host country, Canada has only hosted a single summit in 2007 in Montebello, Quebec. Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper postponed the 2010 scheduled summit in Wakefield, Quebec before canceling the summit. The former prime minister also cancelled the 2015 summit that was scheduled to be in Canada.
Trudeau is much more interested at trilateralism than Harper, a statement that is more true than the sun will come up in the east.
Having a state visit from the Mexican president and a speech before Parliament from the U.S. president will help add to Trudeau's perception outside Canada.
CPAC will have extensive coverage in Canada. Hopefully, C-SPAN will carry the speech in the United States. Those in the U.S. can stream off the CPAC Web site. Check schedules for details.
photos credit: Susan Walsh/The Associated Press file photo; The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick; Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP