As the leaders of Canada and the U.S. meet in Ottawa, a former federal industry minister says China is a sticky subject that will likely remain a long-term complicating factor in North American relations.

“China is a moving piece that's going to be prove to be, I think, a complicated relationship for both of us,” James Moore, now a senior business advisor at Dentons, told BNN Bloomberg in a Friday morning television interview.

U.S. President Joe Biden is visiting Canada weeks after a Chinese spy balloon over North American territory captured the world’s attention.

There are also high-profile political issues related to Chinese influence currently playing out in both countries. In the U.S., lawmakers grilled the CEO of TikTok about Chinese access to Americans’ data, and in Canada, there have been allegations of meddling by China in Canadian elections

“It’s a bit of a hot mess,” Moore said, adding that the visit offers the leaders a stage to highlight other areas of alignment and solidarity to shift public perception away from immediate China concerns, such as alignment on North American defence priorities. 

However, he said Chinese influence on the continent, particularly if China builds a stronger relationship with Mexico while cooling with Canada and the U.S., will likely remain a factor in discussions for years to come. 

“Long term, I see real challenges for the North American trade partnership if we don't align effectively,” Moore said.