WASHINGTON—U.S. President Joe Biden appeared in no mood for compromises Thursday as he welcomed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Oval Office, where the U.S. president offered the usual bilateral pleasantries but no hints he’s willing to budge on a controversial tax credit for American−made electric vehicles.
Trudeau and Biden each sang one another’s praises before a phalanx of U.S. and Canadian reporters and cameras, a show of unity and continental solidarity before a three−way meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
But when the customary shouted questions turned to the subject of the $12,500 zero−emissions vehicles tax credit—a proposed measure the Canadian auto industry has described as a potential body blow—Biden showed no latitude.
“We’re going to talk about that to some extent,” he said. “We haven’t even passed it yet in the House … there’s a lot of complicating factors.”
It’s too early to assume—and highly unlikely anyway—that the proposal, which is part of the $1.75−trillion climate change and social spending package currently awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives, will emerge unscathed.
Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” bill is widely expected to pass in the House, but it will get a rougher ride in the evenly divided Senate, where one moderate Democrat—West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin—has already said he doesn’t like the fact that the tax credit uses taxpayer money to pick winners and losers.
Later Thursday, Trudeau, Biden and López Obrador gathered in the ornate East Room of the White House for a trilateral summit—their first since 2016.
Seated at a large oval table with Biden on one side and Trudeau and López Obrador safely physically distanced on the other, the three leaders—their various cabinet entourages seated along the perimeter of the room—spoke of prioritizing the physical and economic health of their shared continent and respective residents.
“Our North American vision for the future draws on our shared strengths, as well as three vibrant democracies with dynamic populations and economies, wishing to work together,” Biden said.
“We can meet today and we can meet all the challenges, if we just take the time to speak to one another, by working together.”
Trudeau thanked Biden for playing host and described himself as being among friends with a shared priority of “ending” COVID−19 and ensuring strong supply chains between all three countries.
“We are three countries with extremely strong ties between our people, with our values and visions for the future strongly united,” he said.