1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Biden visits Canada with migration, trade, defense in focus

March 24, 2023

Washington and Ottawa have agreed to revise a pact to reduce the surging number of asylum seekers. Biden will push for Ottawa's increased defense expenditure.

US President Joe Biden and Canidian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shake hands as their wives hug
President Joe Biden arrives in Canada for a two-day visit. Image: Andrew Harnik/AP/dpa/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden arrived in Canada Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Discussions will focus on the war in Ukraine, trade, migration, Canada's defense spending and an increasingly assertive China.

John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said, "This visit is about taking stock of what we're done, where we are and what we need to prioritize for the future."

A revised migration pact

Roxham Road, a dirt path in Quebec used by asylum-seekers to enter Canada will be the focal point of the talks.

In 2017 after former US President Donald Trump began cracking down on illegal migrants, Canada witnessed a huge inflow of asylum seekers.

In 2022, nearly 40,000 asylum seekers were intercepted by Canadian police, the vast majority crossed over via Roxham Road, an unofficial border crossing point.

Canada and the US share the longest international border where crossings are typically governed by the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).


A family of asylum seekers cross into Canada via Roxham Road.
In 2022, Canada witnessed a surge in asylum seekers, the vast majority crossed over via Roxham road,Image: Christinne Muschi/REUTERS

The STCA allows the two countries to turn away asylum seekers at formal ports of entry.

The two countries have now reached a deal aimed at revising the STCA in order to include the entire length of the shared border, including unofficial points.

Biden and Trudeau will iron out the details of the pact on Friday.

Focus on defense expenditure

National security and air defense will also be prioritized after a Chinese spy balloon traversed North America in February.

Canada intends to update its radar system and has agreed to an accelerated timeline for increased expenditure on military upgrades for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) partnership.

NORAD monitors the skies above the continent.


Canada has long faced calls to increase its defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP), the agreed upon target among NATO members.

Currently, Ottawa spends about 1.2% of GDP on its defense.

Given the threats posed by Beijing and Moscow, the UK, Australia and Japan have all increased their defense expenditure.

The US expects its northern neighbor to do its part.

Evolution of a friendship

In 2022, trade between the US and Canada totaled an estimated record of $950 billion (€877 billion).

As Canada and the US strengthen their partnership in support of Ukraine, the two countries plan to discuss reducing their dependence on Chinese goods.

Biden will address the parliament on Friday and Trudeau will host him for state dinner in the evening.

This is Biden's first visit to Canada since he became president.

However, in 2016 when Biden was vice president Trudeau gave him a state dinner.

ns/ar (AP, Reuters)