Canada’s Trudeau eyes ‘leaps forward’ in integration with U.S. on EVs, critical minerals

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable

By Steve Scherer

Canada and the United States can collaborate more closely on manufacturing electric vehicles and on supplying critical minerals needed to make batteries for cars and other clean technologies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

“The integration of our economies, of our supply chains … I think gives a real opportunity for us to really take some leaps forward,” Trudeau said in a telephone interview.

After noting Canada has many of the rare earths minerals needed for car batteries and solar panels, Trudeau said it was important to have “a secure supply from a friend and an ally”.

China has been one of the main suppliers of critical minerals to the United States, and Biden is planning to mandate a review of critical U.S. supply chains with an eye to securing industrial supplies, Reuters reported earlier this week.

Canada’s mineral wealth “is part of why so many automakers are now looking at setting up their supply chains for zero emission vehicles in Canada,” Trudeau said.

General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Stellantis NV have all announced plans to manufacture electric vehicles in Canada.

“We’ve always worked with a very integrated auto industry in North America … we’ve already seen something like six billion dollars worth of investment by auto companies in Canada over the past couple of years into zero-emissions or low-emissions vehicles,” Trudeau said.

“There’s a lot of really great opportunities to be developing partnerships and production facilities not just for the North American market, but for the world,” he added.

Trudeau was keen to emphasize the synergies between himself and Biden, though some of the new president’s first moves were blows to Canada.

Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline meant to carry oil to the United States from Canada, and introduced provisions aimed at ensuring the federal government bought only American goods.

On Thursday, Trudeau emphasized he and Biden shared the priority of fighting climate change, and that the pivot toward a cleaner economy was an opportunity for both countries.

“We’re very much on the same page,” Trudeau said of he and Biden’s carbon reduction goals. “I’ve been saying for five years that you can’t have a plan for the economy if you don’t have a plan to fight climate change.”

With the United States generating only around 40% of its energy from renewable or nuclear sources, Trudeau said Canada’s electricity from its network of dams on major rivers could help the United States meet the goal of having a zero-emissions electricity grid.

“President Biden has made the commitment to have a clean electricity grid by 2035. I think Canadian hydro is a natural part of that,” Trudeau said.

“It’s an area where there’s an awful lot of opportunity for us to deepen and build, and there is the real interest by the Americans in looking at that as a way forward.”


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