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Tensions over CUSMA ahead of Biden's Ottawa visit: In The News for March 21

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 21 ... What we are watching in Canada ... It's been less than three years since the U.S.
United States President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listen to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speak during a joint news conference as they take their seats for a meeting at the at the North American Leaders Summit Tuesday, January 10, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of March 21 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

It's been less than three years since the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement replaced NAFTA as the law of the land in continental trade, and there are already hints of the existential anxiety that preceded it.

That's because of the so-called "sunset provision," a clause that reflects the lingering working-class distrust of globalization in the U.S. that helped Donald Trump get elected president back in 2016. 

Article 34.7 of the agreement, the "review and term extension" clause, establishes a 16-year life cycle that requires all three countries to sit down every six years to ensure everyone is still satisfied. 

That clock began ticking in the summer of 2020. If it runs out in 2026, it triggers a self-destruct mechanism of sorts, ensuring the agreement — known in Canada as CUSMA — would expire 10 years later without a three-way consensus.

The deal as it stands is hardly perfect, if the number of disputes is any indication. 

In the 33 months since USMCA went into effect in July 2020, 17 disputes have been launched among the three countries, compared with a total of 77 initiated over the course of NAFTA's 25-year lifespan. 

The U.S. remains unhappy with how Canada has allocated the quotas that give American dairy producers access to markets north of the border. Canada and Mexico both took issue with how the U.S. defined foreign auto content. And Canada and the U.S. oppose Mexico favouring state-owned energy providers.

The Canada-U.S. disputes are likely to be on the agenda when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits down later this week in Ottawa with President Joe Biden, his first official visit to Canada since being sworn in two years ago. 


Also this ...

Statistics Canada is set to release its latest report on how much the cost of living is rising this morning.  

The federal agency will release its consumer price index for February.

The overall annual inflation rate was 5.9 per cent in January, but the year-over-year increase for food prices was 10.4 per cent.

The inflation report comes ahead of the federal budget on March 28.

The Bank of Canada is working to bring the annual inflation rate back to its target of two per cent.

The central bank left its key interest target unchanged at 4.5 per cent earlier this month, the first time it did not raise the rate since it began increasing it last year.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The Biden administration is putting out the word in advance that an expected unofficial stopover in the United States by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen would fall in line with recent precedent and should not be used as a pretext by Beijing to step up aggressive activity in the Taiwan Strait.

In recent weeks, senior U.S. officials in Washington and Beijing have underscored to their Chinese counterparts that transit visits through the United States during broader international travel by the Taiwanese president have been routine in recent years, according to a senior administration official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

In such visits in recent years, Tsai has met with members of Congress and the Taiwanese diaspora and has been welcomed by the chairperson of the American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S. government-run nonprofit that carries out unofficial relations with Taiwan.

Tsai transited through the United States six times between 2016 and 2019 before slowing international travel with the coronavirus pandemic. In reaction to those visits, China rhetorically lashed out against the U.S. and Taiwan.

The Biden administration is trying to avoid a replay of the heavy-handed response by China that came after then- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan last year.

Following Pelosi's August visit, Beijing launched missiles over Taiwan, deployed warships across the median line of the Taiwan Strait and carried out military exercises near the island. Beijing also suspended climate talks with the U.S. and restricted military-to-military communication with the Pentagon.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida began a surprise visit to Ukraine early Tuesday, hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in neighboring Russia for a three-day visit. The dueling summits come as the longtime rivals are on diplomatic offensives.

Kishida will meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital.

He will "show respect to the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people who are standing up to defend their homeland under President Zelenskyy's leadership, and show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as head of Japan and chairman of G-7," during his visit to Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in announcing his trip to Kyiv.

At the talks, Kishida will show his "absolute rejection of Russia's one-sided change to the status quo by invasion and force, and to affirm his commitment to defend the rules-based international order," the ministry's statement said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Xi to the Kremlin on a visit both nations describe as an opportunity to deepen their "no-limits friendship."


On this day in 1978 ...

In a precedent-setting decision, an Ottawa county court judge awarded custody of two children to their homosexual father, a 37-year-old businessman from Montreal.


In entertainment ...

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow goes on trial starting Tuesday in the Utah ski town of Park City where she is accused in a lawsuit of crashing into a skier during a 2016 family ski vacation, leaving him with brain damage and four broken ribs. The retired optometrist suing the actress-turned-lifestyle influencer has accused her of skiing out of control at Deer Valley Resort. Paltrow has countered that he was actually the culprit in the collision, is overstating his injuries, and trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth. The trial is slated to last longer than a week.


Did you see this?

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is being summoned by a parliamentary committee for the third time in four years _ this time over the tech company's threat to block news from Canadians on its social-media platforms.

The decision comes a week after the company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, announced it would block news if the Liberal government's Online News Act passes in its current form.

The legislation, also known as Bill C-18, would require tech giants to pay Canadian media companies for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online.

The House of Commons heritage committee agreed on Monday to summon Zuckerberg, the company's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, and the head of Meta Canada, Chris Saniga, to appear at an upcoming meeting.

It also agreed to request internal and external documents from Meta and from Google, which recently blocked news access for some Canadian users to test out a possible response to Bill C-18 _ with some critics calling the committee's request a violation of privacy and a targeted ``shakedown.''

Meta did not answer questions on Monday regarding the summons, saying it would be responding directly to the committee.

"As the minister of Canadian heritage said, how we choose to comply with the Online News Act is a business decision we must make," spokesperson Lisa Laventure said in a statement.

She was referring to Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez's response last fall to questions about whether the government was trying to prevent the outcome of companies blocking news content. "It's a business decision that has to be taken by the platform,'"Rodriguez said in October.

Zuckerberg has repeatedly ignored summons from Ottawa before, first in 2019 when an ethics committee was studying users' privacy on social media platforms, and again in 2021 when the heritage committee was studying an Australian law similar to Bill C-18.

The House of Commons doesn't have the power to summon individuals who live outside of Canada, but it can enforce the summons if they ever set foot in the country, a move that would be considered extremely rare.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press