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Biden restarts trilateral summit, focused on North American partnership

President Biden is joined by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the North American Leaders' Summit at the White House on Thursday.
President Biden is joined by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the North American Leaders' Summit at the White House on Thursday.

Updated November 18, 2021 at 10:48 PM ET

President Biden on Thursday hosted the leaders of Canada and Mexico for a trilateral summit — the first North American leader summit of its kind since 2016.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador joined Biden at the White House to discuss issues including immigration, security, trade, climate and the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are closely bound by history, culture, a shared environment, and economic and family ties, and strongly believe that by strengthening our partnership we will be able to respond to a widening range of global challenges," the three said in a lengthy joint statement released by the White House.

Biden hopes to heal some of the wounds opened by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, whose protectionist, "America First" policies isolated the United States from its neighbors and closest allies, and prompted outrage from some world leaders.

It was under Trump that these once-regular meetings were ended, as the former president zeroed his focus on American priorities, irrespective of the global impact of these decisions, particularly as they pertained to trade and immigration.

While Biden wants to lay out a fresh start with America's neighbors, there are some economic sticking points on which the three leaders do not see eye to eye — such as U.S. proposals to offer tax credits for electric vehicles that would only be available for cars and trucks made in the U.S. with union labor.

The meetings Thursday at the White House were heavy on symbolism.

In his bilateral meeting with López Obrador, Biden emphasized that the United States has turned the corner from the past.

"I believe it's a different and emerging relationship which is one borne out of mutual respect," he said.

With Trudeau, Biden emphasized shared values of "opportunity, equity and justice" saying, "This is one of the easiest relationships you can have as an American president, and one of the best."

Biden met with each leader individually, and then the three met together.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 19, 2021 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Canada's prime minister as its head of state. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is Canada's head of government, while the country's head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.
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