Trudeau to host Three Amigos summit with U.S., Mexican presidents in June

OTTAWA — Prime Minister will host U.S. President and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in in June for this year’s edition of the summit, the Ottawa Citizen has learned.

Trudeau is expected to announce the upcoming summit, the first to be held in Canada in nearly a decade, during his official visit to Washington this week. Sources say the announcement comes after months of intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations between Canada and its North American partners.

Canada was supposed to host the meeting last year, but then-prime minister Stephen Harper cancelled it after Obama refused to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. While Trudeau promised during the election to hold it in Canada, multiple sources say Obama wanted it in the U.S. to mark his final year in power.

Meanwhile, Pena Nieto was reluctant to come to Canada as long as Mexicans need visas to visit. The Conservatives imposed the visa requirements in 2009 to stop refugees from coming to Canada. But Mexicans saw it as a slap in the face, and Pena Nieto cancelled a visit to Calgary over the issue last year.

RelatedJohn Ivison: 'Justin Fever' hits U.S., leaving Democrats and Republicans with hearts a-flutterTerence Corcoran: Trudeau’s charm offensive meets American angerMatt Gurney: Canada’s new ISIL mission offers worrying signs that our foreign policy is in unsteady hands

The Americans eventually backed down on their desire to host the summit, while sources say there has been some movement on the visa requirements after a Canadian delegation visited Mexico City last week. The Liberals promised during the election to “immediately” lift the Mexican visa requirements.

Trudeau’s office would not confirm the meeting.

Hosting the Three Amigos summit in Canada represents a win for Trudeau after relations became strained under the Conservatives thanks to Keystone and the Mexican visa requirements. Those two issues were emblematic of a broader chill that had descended over the trilateral relationship in recent years.

It will also almost certainly be the last time Obama will set foot in Canada as the U.S. president. His only previous visits were an afternoon jaunt to Ottawa after his inauguration in February 2009, and when Canada hosted the G8 and G20 summits in Muskoka and Toronto, respectively, in June 2010.

The last time the U.S. and Mexican presidents visited Canada for the North American Leaders’ Summit, or Three Amigos meeting, was when George W. Bush and travelled to Montebello, Que., to meet Stephen Harper in August 2007. Canada was to host the 2010 summit, but the meeting never happened.

Carlo Dade, an expert on North American affairs at the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, said Trudeau’s visit to Washington this week represents a “dry-run” and a “building-block” for the Three Amigos, particularly when it comes to climate change.

“Obama is now firmly focused on his legacy and putting in place concrete acts that will constitute it,” Dade said. “While a climate- or energy-environment pact with Canada would be nice, a “hemispheric” pact has a much weightier and profound, legacy-like ring to it. This is now possible with Trudeau on the scene.

“Harper was always the odd man out, the gringo in the three amigos, with Obama and Mexican President Pena Nieto ready to undertake bold action for a while now.”

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: leeberthiaume

About Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen