America’s allies, listen: it’s always America first



In his first hours in office on Wednesday, Biden made Canada the first foreign victim of his campaign pledges and revoked the building permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought Canadian oil to the U.S. market.

Biden said for months that as part of his climate agenda, he would cancel the project. But the decisive speed of its decree gives Canada no right of reply.

Even Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who backs the Keystone XL pipeline, tweeted that the executive order amounted to a slap in the face for Canada.

“This is a moment of realpolitik, it is a reality check that America is still looking after American interests and it is high time that we did the same in Canada,” said Goldy Hyder, President and Chief from the management of the Business Council of Canada, in an interview with CNN.

Biden’s actions are a first salvo for America’s allies; a clear indication that although the new president is committed to restoring old relations, a wise and calculated personal interest, rooted in the domestic political agenda, will define his foreign policy.

Biden called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday during his first call to a foreign leader.

A government source who learned of the call described it as “warm and friendly” and substantial. The two leaders agreed that fighting the pandemic will be their top priority.

Privately, the pair reiterated their comments about the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation. Trudeau reportedly told Biden he was disappointed and that it would cost jobs on both sides of the border.

Biden said he was keeping a campaign promise.

“We are relieved that the rates weren’t announced in the tweets, but I think outside of those changes the point is that US policy as such hasn’t changed much,” Hyder said.

During the phone call with Trudeau, Biden underscored his commitment to multilateralism.

A reading of the appeal released by Trudeau’s office Friday night reads: “Leaders reiterated their strong commitment to multilateral institutions and alliances.”

The reading also said that “the Prime Minister and the President have agreed to consult closely to avoid measures that could hamper bilateral trade, supply chains and economic growth.”

But earlier on Friday, Trudeau was more outspoken and realistic about Biden’s approach, especially when it comes to trade.

“It won’t always be a perfect alignment with the United States, that’s the case with any president, but in a situation where we are much more aligned on values, on focus, on the job at hand. To give everyone opportunities while we build a better future, I look forward to working with President Biden, ”Trudeau said at a press conference Friday.

Buy American Approach Can Test Allied Relationships

But those “values” will be tested again next week as the Biden administration sets out its priorities for a “Buy American” approach to the economy, an approach that some in Canada say will lead to more trade protectionism.

From Keystone XL to Paris Agreement, Joe Biden signals abandonment of fossil fuels

“Buy American will be the next big test,” Hyder said, adding that it will pose a challenge for Canada as well as other allies.

“What’s good for America is strong trade relations, energy security, reliable partners and allies who can be there for you, right? That’s what we need to stand up for.” , Hyder said.

But presenting this case in the hyperpartisan atmosphere of Washington will be more complicated as the United States struggles to recover from a debilitating pandemic.

Both before and after his election, Biden promised to tighten the “Buy American” rules. This is another campaign promise that could once again sweep Canada and backfire on other allies.

Biden has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on things like infrastructure projects that would be done using mostly American commodities and products.

The “Buy American” campaign could, however, receive the legislative support it needs to make it enforceable. This, in turn, might make it indistinguishable from an “America First” doctrine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, saying in a speech that “after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House”.

But during a press briefing this week, European Council President Charles Michel appeared to take a more pragmatic approach.

“We have our differences and they will not magically disappear. America seems to have changed, and the way it is perceived in Europe and the rest of the world has also changed,” Michel said, adding that Europe would defend its interests.

Canada will likely be the first ally to vigorously defend its interests, however warm the relationship between Trudeau and Biden may be.


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