US President Joe Biden meets PM Justin Trudeau in Ottawa and will address parliament, with reports that a deal has been struck on managing undocumented migration across the neighbours' long border.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau greet US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden as they arrive at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau greet US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden as they arrive at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa. (AFP)

President Joe Biden has arrived in Canada for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world's most difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate crisis, trade, mass migration and an increasingly assertive China.

Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Biden even departed Washington on Thursday. 

Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the two nations have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to US and Canadian officials. The officials were not authorised to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

The migration deal eliminates a loophole under existing rules that will allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers at the countries' borders. The loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually crossing into Canada from the US at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the US.

As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to apply to enter the country, according to a Canadian official.

The new policy applies to people without US or Canadian citizenship who are caught within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries. 

Biden and Trudeau did not respond to questions from reporters about the agreement when the president and first lady Jill Biden arrived for a private gathering at the prime minister’s residence.

The White House declined to comment on the agreement, which is expected to be formally announced on Friday.

The visit comes as the Biden administration has made strengthening its relationship with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides see the meetings in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunity to set plans for the future.

National security and air defences are top of mind after a Chinese spy balloon last month traversed North America. 

NORAD system

Canada plans to update its radar systems and has agreed to an accelerated timeline for spending billions more on military upgrades for NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent, according to the senior Canadian government official.

Canada announced last year it is investing $3.8 billion over the next six years to modernise NORAD radar systems and billions more years later, but David Cohen, the US ambassador to Canada, has said the current threat climate calls for quicker investment.

There will still be an emphasis on trade, yet Canada and the US see the partnership as crucial in supporting Ukraine against Russia's invasion, reducing their dependence on Chinese goods and shifting toward cleaner energy sources amid the planetary damage caused by burning fossil fuels.

The leaders are also expected to discuss tapping critical minerals that will enable the production of electric vehicles, and military and economic commitments at a moment that observers say is the most dangerous since World War II. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping this week visited Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledging to deepen their economic ties in ways that could help fund Putin's ongoing war to take Ukraine.

Trade between the US and Canada totalled an estimated record of $950 billion in 2022. Each day, about 400,000 people cross the world's longest international border, and about 800,000 Canadian citizens live in the United States. There is close cooperation on defence, border security and law enforcement, and a vast overlap in culture, traditions and pastimes.

Source: AP