Trudeau travels to India

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India this week will reinforce and underline our growing people-to-people ties. The economic relationship is less buoyant, but if Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi can deliver on his promised domestic reforms, there is the potential for more two-way trade and investment.

With stops in Agra, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, as well as New Delhi, it will be a rare session that does not include some reference to family living or studying in Canada.

The Indian diaspora includes several members in the Canadian Parliament, with four members in the Trudeau cabinet. Nearly 4 per cent of Canadians claim Indian decent, with 40,000 Indians migrating to Canada last year. The 124,000 Indians studying in Canada are our second-largest group of foreign students. No surprise that tourism is also on the rise, with more than 210,000 Indians visiting Canada last year. There are daily and non-stop flights.

India definitely deserves Canadian attention.

India will soon surpass China in population, with one-sixth of humanity. It is also the world’s largest democracy, which is a cacophony of caste and creeds. The two Prime Ministers will empathize over the challenges of managing federations with strong sectional and regional pressures. Some of these, such as the Sikh separatist movement, play into Canadian affairs.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Mr. Modi was forceful in his embrace of globalization. He described his “New India” reform agenda and its pillars of structural reform: technological governance; physical infrastructure; business facilitation; and inclusive development. Designed to give “good administration and better amenities,” Canada needs to identify the niche opportunities within each pillar.

Trade and investment will figure in every discussion. Investment from Canadian pension funds in real estate and other sectors has picked up in the past couple of years.

With its steady GDP growth, India is expected to become the third-largest consumer market by 2025.

But Canada and India are still some distance from long-promised deals on foreign investment and closer economic relations.

The foreign-investment protection agreement negotiated by the Paul Martin and Stephen Harper governments that was concluded in 2007 has yet to be implemented. Free-trade negotiations began in 2010. The six-month “road map” to its achievement, that Mr. Harper and Mr. Modi enthused about during the Indian Prime Minister’s Canadian visit in April, 2015, has yet to materialize.

Much of the problem lies, as the World Bank consistently reports, with India’s trade restrictiveness. Mr. Modi talks a good show on reform and, while he is making some progress, the structural impediments are deep and entrenched.

There is also, notwithstanding Mr. Modi’s declaration in Davos, Indian protectionism.

The imposition late last year of a 50-per-cent import tariff on peas and a 30-per-cent tariff on chickpeas and lentils should be high on Mr. Trudeau’s discussions with Mr. Modi. Agricultural sales to India are a major market, especially for Prairie farmers.

Mr. Trudeau will likely get a receptive hearing on climate and the progressive trade agenda that can be parleyed into useful initiatives.

Mr. Modi will raise Indo-Pacific security and likely ask about Canadian capacity and capabilities. Indian policy under Mr. Modi has shifted from “Look East” to “Act East.” His “Neighbourhood First” policy is roughly analogous to the Trudeau government’s new “Strong, Secure, Engaged” defence policy. At last month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum, there were discussions about the “congagement” – containment and engagement – of China. Mr. Trudeau should listen to Mr. Modi’s perspective.

With the Trans-Pacific Partnership now a reality and likely to be implemented later this year, our trade in the Pacific will only increase. It will oblige more attention and commitment to Indo-Pacific security.

The tempo of Indo-Pacific activity by our Esquimalt-based warships has picked up. HMCS Chicoutimi, one of our Victoria-class submarines, is completing a nearly six month successful Pacific exercise that also took it to Japan. If we want to be seen as a serious Indo-Pacific partner, the current tempo will be seen as the bare minimum.

Mr. Trudeau’s India visit is his longest yet to a single country. The Indian backdrop will provide a spectacular picturesque travelogue against a celebration of family ties. But real success will also require serious and continuing conversations on trade and security.

A Conversation with Indian High Commissioner Vikas Swarup

February 12, 2018

On today’s Global Exchange Podcast, we speak with the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup. Join Colin and High Commissioner Swarup for a discussion on the High Commissioner’s career, his impressions of Canada, the importance of Canada-India relations, and the significance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming visit to India.

Participant Biographies

  • Colin Robertson (host): A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Vikas Swarup: High Commissioner of India to Canada.

Related Links

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Trade on the Table

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 10.38.02 AM

The Agenda
with Steve Paikin
Jan 26, 2018  21:53
On January 23, while NAFTA negotiations between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. were underway in Montreal, and world leaders were meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, a deal was reached for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. This deal includes both Canada and Mexico but not the U.S.. The Agenda discusses how the newly minted CPTPP agreement will impact NAFTA negotiations. Steve Paiken talks with Mark Warner and Colin Roberton

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Ballistic Missile Defence

Canada should join ballistic missile defence system, but it will cost us: experts

WATCH: Ballistic Missile Defence has suffered from negative coverage: Macdonals

The Canadian government must consider paying up to join the U.S. ballistic missile defence program, say a former diplomat and a former NORAD commander.

In a panel discussion on The West Block with Vassy Kapelos, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and retired Lt-Gen. George Macdonald agreed that the time has come to take steps to actively protect Canada in the event of a ballistic missile strike like the ones being threatened by North Korea.Related

At the moment, Canada has no means to defend itself against such a strike should a missile be aimed at us, or veer off course after being aimed at a U.S. city.

READ MORE: U.S. won’t defend Canada during North Korean missile attack, official says

“I think that the NORAD mission, which has been aerospace warning and defence for almost 60 years now, always included ballistic missile warning, but a natural extension of (missile) defence was not agreed to by the Canadian government in 2005,” said Macdonald, a former deputy commander-in-chief at NORAD.

That decision came as a surprise to many within the joint defence organization, he noted.

WATCH: U.S. won’t defend Canada from North Korea attack

But the U.S. ballistic missile defence program (BMD) suffered from a great deal of bad press a decade ago, Macdonald said.

At the time, there were concerns that it was destabilizing from a global military perspective, that the costs were too high and that it simply it didn’t work (the complexity of stopping a nuclear-armed missile mid-flight has been compared to hitting a bullet with another bullet).

“In the 10 or 12 years that have passed since then, the system has evolved,” Macdonald told Kapelos. “There is more confidence in the ability to defend against a ballistic missile attack … I think it’s topical now to revisit the situation.”

Robertson said Canada will need to go in with “eyes open,” however, especially as the Americans have no real motivation to bring us into the fold. Ottawa will need to commit resources, and money, to the endeavour. So far, there have not been any signals that the government is preparing to change its position.

“I think if we want in now we’re going to have to pay for it,” Robertson said.

“There is a piece in the (Canadian Armed Forces) defence policy review which says that we will be looking with the Americans at all threats to North America, so this would give the government the political cover they need to take a look at this.”

Prepared Remarks before House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence on ‘Canada’s Abilities to Defend Itself and our Allies in the Event of an Attack by North Korea on the North American Continent’, Thursday, September 14, 2017

My remarks draw on 33 years of experience in the Canadian Foreign Service and, since then, my work as a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. I spent a week earlier this year in Seoul, as the guest of the Korea Foundation, meeting with Korean scholars and senior Korean defence and security officials.


Let me address three questions:

  • Canadian participation in Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD)?
  • Our policy towards North Korea?
  • How can Canada contribute to nuclear non-proliferation?


Ballistic Missile Defence


It is time for Canada to participate in BMD as an insurance policy to shield Canadians should missiles come our way. Our European allies and Pacific partners employ it. So should we.

The Government dodged consideration of BMD in the recent Defence Policy Review (DPR). When I asked at the technical briefing at the launch of the DPR last May, I was told that the Government was staying with the policy adopted by the Martin and then Harper governments that we will not participate in BMD, but that the government is discussing defending North America against ‘all threats’ with the American government.  That would have to include BMD.


From discussions around the 2005 decision I understand that at that time the Government could not get adequate answers to three questions:

  • Does it work and how would BMD protect Canada?
  • How much participation would Canada have in what is essentially a US managed system?
  • How much would it cost?


These are still good questions and the current Government should get these answers and share them with Canadians.


That said, based on the evidence presented to it, the Senate National Defence Committee unanimously recommended in June 2014 that Canada participate in BMD.


Since then there is abundant evidence of North Korea’s improved capacity to both miniaturize a nuclear warhead and then project it by ballistic missile across continents. As then President George W Bush reportedly asked then Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006: ‘but what happens if a North Korean missile aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle winds up heading towards Calgary or Vancouver…don’t you want protection?’

While the US may protect a Canadian target near to a US city, there can be no guarantee since the US system is limited in size and the North Korean ICBM force of uncertain number. Unless we are inside the system – and making a contribution – we have no assurances even if the US commander would wish to protect a Canadian target that is remote from a US asset – think Edmonton or Calgary.

Consideration of Canadian engagement on BMD should cover all possible initiatives beyond the simply positioning of anti-missiles in Canada. These would range from a Government declaration that we acknowledge the missile threat to North America, to allocating additional Canadian Forces resources to NORAD, to equipping our naval assets with appropriate gear to detect missiles, to radar arrays in Canada, to writing a cheque to support research. In each case it will require more attention to security in Canada’s North.


The US is not asking us to join BMD. They did in 2005 and we said no. My sense is that if we were to ask now to included they would probably agree but it will oblige them to make changes to a system in which they have invested billions. There would be a cost to Canada. So if we decide to join, we do it because it serves Canadian interests and protects Canadians, not because, as some suggest, we are doing the Americans a favour. On the contrary, they would be doing us a service having made the initial and ongoing investment.

Joining BMD would likely bring the continental BMD defence function under NORAD and NORTHCOM. Canada has participated in NORAD’s missile warning function for many years, and bringing BMD into it would strengthen the bi-national institution at the heart of Canada-US relations and the defence relationship in particular.

North Korea


I believe that the Government, as part of its commitment to active internationalism, needs to reconsider its current policy approach to North Korea. Diplomatic relations are not a seal of good housekeeping but rather the means by which advance Canadian interests and protect Canadians. Relations also allow us to bring insight, intelligence and a Canadian perspective to the diplomatic table.


The current policy of controlled engagement was adopted by the Harper Government in 2010 after a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean warship in blatant disregard of its international obligations.


This policy limits engagement to discussion of (1) regional security concerns; (2) the human rights and humanitarian situation in North Korea; (3) inter-Korean relations; and (4) consular issues and this latter provision was how National Security Advisor Daniel Jean negotiated the recent exit from North Korea of Pastor Lim.


The Lim episode aside, it has meant we have virtually no contact with the Kim regime. There has not been an Ambassadorial visit to North Korea since 2010. In fact, no Canadian Ambassador has been accredited to North Korea since 2011. This contrasts with like-minded embassies in Seoul whose Ambassadors have regularly travelled to North Korea in the last 7 years. Seven EU countries also have resident Embassies in North Korea.  Our current policy helps no one, hinders communication, particularly at times when we most need it, and puts us at an information disadvantage with, and lessens our value to our closest allies.


The authoritarian regime of Kim Jong-Un, continues to break international nuclear non-proliferation norms, despite repeated Security Council resolutions.


My view is that while any role for Canada would likely be limited, it would serve our interests to engage the North Koreans, thus enabling us to bring some intelligence or niche capacity to the table. My former foreign service colleague James Trottier who made 4 official visits to North Korea in 2015 and 2016 recently wrote an informed and useful piece in the Ottawa Citizen arguing for a combination of negotiations, incentives, sanctions and strengthened missile defence.


Some observations:


First, South Korea is our friend, fellow middle-power and the only nation in Asia with which we have a free trade agreement. It’s a country that we should cultivate, keeping in mind that they respect understand and respect toughness in trade negotiations.


South Korea has lived under the threat of bombardment by North Korea since the Armistice in 1953. Seoul, a city of ten million people, is 60 kilometers from the border and within easy range of conventional bombardment. After meeting with a very senior official in March he walked me to the elevator where I saw what I thought were a bunch of goggles. He looked at me and said “That’s for a chemical or biological gas attack. I don’t fear a nuclear bomb because what we have created in South Korea is just too valuable for Kim Jong-Un to destroy. He’d rather eliminate us so he can put his own people here.”


Second observation, Kim Jong-Un is ruthless, acting like something out of Game of Thrones, but his behaviour is rational and based on self-preservation.


For him and the 200,000 or so senior officials who benefit from his autocracy, a nuclear bomb is their insurance policy against the fate of Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. Kim will not give up his weapons.


Third, we will have to live with a nuclear North Korea. We need to establish a new equilibrium and accept the least offensive outcome if we are to realize objectives under the failed ‘strategic patience’ policy.


The time for a military intervention, if it ever existed, has probably passed, short of some sort of extraordinary intervention by the Chinese, the only power with real leverage in this situation. But, for now, China does not want a failed regime and the migrants it would bring.


So we must live with the situation. An engaged Canada could perhaps be helpful. We used our convening capacity in the lead-up to President Obama’s opening to Cuba. President Trump has said he would consider meeting Kim Jong-Un. Throw in Dennis Rodman and a Raptors game and Niagara Falls and who knows what would happen.  The point is that to contain North Korea we have to think outside-of-the-box.


Nuclear Non-Proliferation


The fundamental issue with North Korea is nuclear proliferation. As part of our commitment to active internationalism, Canada should re-dedicate itself to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.


For Canada, one of the world’s biggest producers of uranium, there is an important role to play in helping to secure the materials needed to make a nuclear bomb.

Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan account for more than two-thirds of global production. What if the three agreed to become permanent stewards of used uranium products?

We would permanently “own” our uranium and ensure that its waste, including radioactive and fissible material, was properly disposed of, perhaps in mines no longer in production. While this doesn’t solve the problem of existing nuclear waste, it would control most new supply.

The International Atomic Energy Agency would provide on-site accounting oversight and supervise the transportation of all uranium. Rates would reflect risks to make it commercially and politically viable.

Given their secure geography, Canada and Australia would have to take the lead in long-term global disposal. This will require leadership and explanation to persuade Canadians to take on this responsibility.

Saskatchewan is home to Canada’s uranium mines and the industry is one of the largest employers of indigenous people. People in Saskatchewan strongly support their industry. They recognize the value of nuclear medicine research, but they oppose nuclear waste storage. They will need to be convinced aboåut the safety, security and economic returns of long-term stewardship.

Nuclear energy, which emits no carbon, is also a key piece of the solution to climate-change mitigation. China is betting heavily on nuclear energy in its migration from coal. France derives about 75 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy. Nuclear power supplies half of Ontario’s electricity.

The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. We must do a better job of handling its waste and curbing nuclear proliferation. As both a producer and user, Canada can take the lead in the control and containment of our own uranium.


We live in a world in disarray but we are not without assets and opportunities. I recommend that we look hard at ballistic missile defence as an insurance shield for Canadians, engage with North Korea to see if we can be helpful, and take a leadership role in controlling nuclear materials.


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NAFTA Talks Begin

Talks begin to renegotiate NAFTA trade agreement

Listen to this storyNorth Country leaders are watching closely as officials from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The talks began on Wednesday after years of heated rhetoric about NAFTA from American politicians.
Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative. Photo: Office of the President

Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative. Photo: Office of the President

And the tough talk continued on Day One. Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, said, “We cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved…. We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many many Americans and needs major improvement.”But some experts say the deal isn’t likely to undergo radical changes.

Colin Robertson, vice president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, thinks NAFTA will get a few updates, but mostly remain the same.

And he says while Lighthizer may talk a big game in public, things might not be so dramatic behind the scenes.

“Within the negotiating tables themselves, is there drama? Not usually,” Robertson said. “Because remember, this is all behind closed doors, these are professional negotiators, they know each other. We’ve just been through the Trans Pacific Partnership talks. Yes, that agreement was put on ice but that will be – a lot of the content of that will be the base. And the Americans have said that already – that they’re going to be taking a lot of the language from the Trans Pacific Partnership and they’ll be bringing that into the negotiating table as the kind of starting point.”

There are major disputes over lumber, dairy, manufacturing, and other areas.

The renegotiation talks continue for the next several months.

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NAFTA Negotiaions

Colin Robertson was also on CGTN to give the Canadian perspective on how NAFTA renegotiation may turn out:

You can watch that interview Here.

Colin Robertson joined CTV News Network to give commentary on the first round of NAFTA talks:

You can watch that interview Here.

Provincial News

Support within U.S. key to successful NAFTA renegotiation

  • Corwyn Friesen, mySteinbach
  • Posted on 08/21/2017 at 11:00 am

The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says strong American support for NAFTA, particularly within the agricultural community, will play an important role in the renegotiation of agreement.

Canadian, U,S. and Mexican negotiators completed the first round of talks yesterday aimed at revamping North American Free Trade Agreement.

Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says strong support within the United States for the agreement will be an important factor.

What ever agreement that the Trump Administration negotiates will be subject to an up or down vote in the American Congress, in the House of Representatives and the Senate so it is important for us and we have made a sustained effort along with the Mexicans over the past six months to remind Americans at the local level why trade with Canada works for Americans.

We start of with what is Mr. Trump’s principal objective and that’s to create jobs. We point out that the Canada, United States, Mexico agreement accounts for roughly 14 million jobs in the United States. The trade with Canada and Mexico makes that possible.

Most Americans have not appreciated that fact but now we’re reminding them on a kind of daily basis and certainty we use every occasion when a minister or a legislator or a premier and this has been an all of Canada effort to do so. It’s not just been the federal government ministers that have been going down to the United States.

It’s been also Premiers, provincial legislators, business persons and those in the farm community for example have been very diligent over the last few years in working the various farm bureaus and going to state fairs just to remind them that trade with Canada creates wealth and jobs in the United States.

~ Colin Robertson, Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Robertson observes we have had a very good response from the Americans. He notes the Governor of Nebraska, during a recent visit to Canada, pointed out Canada is the number one export market for 35 American states.

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NAFTA Talks Begin

Former Canadian diplomat: We shouldn’t be under the impression that NAFTA talks will be easy

Colin Robertson, who is VP & Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a former Canadian diplomat, and was a member of the team that negotiated the first NAFTA deal, joins BNN to provide his perspective as NAFTA talks begin.

Nafta Talks Open With Spat Over How to Resolve Tariff Conflicts

By Paul Vieira in Ottawa, William Mauldin in Washington and Anthony Harrup in Mexico City Features Dow Jones Newswires

Talks to remake the North American Free Trade Agreement are starting off today with an early dispute — over how to settle disputes.

Under Nafta, the U.S., Mexico and Canada have resolved tariff conflicts by submitting them to expert panels that can sustain or overturn tariffs. The system has helped guide the trilateral relationship for 23 years.

Now the U.S. wants to do away with those dispute-resolution panels, while Canada is digging in on its insistence that they are a crucial tool for Canadian firms to use to fight tariffs imposed by its powerful southern neighbor. Mexican senators have also called for retaining the mechanism.

Though the system for resolving tariff disputes is only one of many issues that U.S. officials are expected to put on the table in the talks that begin Wednesday in Washington, it is a particularly divisive one. For President Donald Trump, the panels’ power to overturn tariffs strikes at the heart of his “America First” trade policy and his campaign’s spirited defense of measures to protect U.S. industries against what he sees as unfair trade practices.

“This first session could be quite confrontational,” said Fred Bergsten, founder of the Peterson Institute of International Economics in Washington and a member of the U.S. advisory panel for trade negotiations. He expects the U.S. to put the issue on the negotiating table early in the process.

Without Chapter 19 — the portion of Nafta that creates the panels — disputes over tariffs would end up in national courts or before the World Trade Organization, a body the administration also views with skepticism.

The divide is worrying to business groups that want to ensure the talks stay on course. Major changes to Nafta have to be approved by all three countries’ leadership, plus their legislators. Business lobbyists and former trade officials say gridlock could lead to renewed threats from member countries to pull out of the deal or feed political opposition during election seasons.

The opening bids suggest a compromise won’t be easy.

“Canada absolutely stands very firm in the importance of having such a mechanism,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week as she unveiled the country’s objectives ahead of the Nafta talks.

Similarly, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the current system provides a deterrent against the improper use of duties. Dismantling it could end up hurting exporters in all three countries, he told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.

A U.S. trade official told reporters Tuesday that Washington plans to “be quite ambitious in this first round.”

One question is whether the early rhetoric will give way to compromise once the give and take of the negotiations begin. Trade negotiations are all about compromise, and Chapter 19 could end up being a bargaining chip in a broader set of concessions each side seeks.

“Everything that’s released publicly is a negotiating position,” said Celeste Drake, a senior expert at the AFL-CIO, the biggest U.S. labor federation. “There is always a middle ground if negotiators are willing to work.”

U.S. labor groups tend to oppose Chapter 19, saying tariffs levied on the grounds of alleged dumping or subsidies can be challenged in the court system or through the WTO. Ms. Drake said the Trump administration should press hard to resolve differences with the other governments to achieve the best deal for workers.

Stephen Powell, a former senior counsel at the Commerce Department who has written extensively on the dispute-resolution process, said given the historical importance Canada places on Chapter 19, it would likely demand a “very large concession” for abandoning the system. “Canada can certainly insist on something very big, so can Mexico,” Mr. Powell said.

But for Mr. Trump and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Chapter 19 symbolizes an erosion of sovereignty, since the panels have primarily been used to overturn tariffs imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department on Canadian and Mexican products. The issue is of particular note to Mr. Lighthizer, who spent about three decades as a Washington trade lawyer arguing for the types of tariffs that can be overturned under Chapter 19.

Mr. Lighthizer’s office in July left flexibility in most of its official objectives for Nafta talks, but it said clearly in the trade remedy section that it wanted to “eliminate the Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism.”

The third-party dispute system dates back to 1987, when President Ronald Reagan granted Canada’s demands for an independent resolution mechanism to salvage the U.S.-Canada free-trade pact, Nafta’s predecessor. The issue threatened to become a deal breaker 30 years ago, and it took the intervention of Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker to get resolved.

Colin Robertson, a Canadian negotiator at those 1987 talks, said Canada’s business community pushed for independent panels after years of amassing large legal bills unsuccessfully fighting U.S. trade sanctions in the American courts.

Since coming into force, nearly 150 Chapter 19 cases have been adjudicated, two-thirds of which were brought by either Canada or Mexico against the Commerce Department.

The rate at which countries are filing Chapter 19 cases has recently slowed, with panels having dealt with just over a dozen cases since 2010. Trade watchers say the falloff in cases stems in part from the greater U.S. focus on trade cases involving China, and illustrates how Nafta has ushered in greater integration across the North American economy, with firms owning assets in each of the three countries. “There’s no us versus them any more,” said Peter Glossop, trade lawyer with Toronto firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt.

Canada hasn’t always had clear-cut wins in Chapter 19 cases, but some — most notably dealing with the decadeslong spat over lumber — have gone its way. Ottawa’s most recent win was in April, when an independent panel directed the U.S. Commerce Department to roll back the bulk of a proposed 20% tariff on a type of glossy magazine paper made by a mill in the Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia. The U.S. claimed the mill unfairly benefited from power rates set by the province’s regulator, but the panel found that the U.S. offered little evidence to support its case.

“We certainly knew that with Chapter 19, all of the facts would be addressed by an independent panel…in a more fair manner,” said Marc Dubé, a senior manager at Port Hawkesbury Paper, the mill that faced the 20% duty.

Write to Paul Vieira at, William Mauldin at and Anthony Harrup at - news, features, articles and disease information for the poultry industry

As NAFTA Renegotiation Begins, Canada Feels Optimistic

17 August 2017

Manitoba Pork Council

Farm-Scape is sponsored by
Manitoba Pork Council and Sask PorkFarmScape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council
and Sask Pork.

CANADA – The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says, with the renegotiation of NAFTA now underway, there’s good reason for Canadians to be optimistic, Bruce Cochrane reports.

The first round of negotiations aimed at renewing the North American Free Trade Agreement kicked off yesterday in Washington.

Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the fact that Canada is actually at the table is cause for optimism.

Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute

President Trump, running as candidate Trump, declared on many occasions that NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever negotiated and that on his first day in office he would tear it up.

He did, on his first day in office, shelve the Trans-Pacific Partnership which effectively was an updating of the NAFTA but done with 12 countries including Canada, Mexico and the United States.

But the NAFTA, I think there was serious consideration to indeed tearing it up, giving notice and it would have taken six months for the United States to pull out but, particularly the farm community in the United States, protested, came back and said look this is working for us.

We’re selling a lot of our produce to Canada and to Mexico so do no harm please.

I think that’s what helped persuade President Trump to renegotiate the agreement.

He has said that he has had conversations with both Prime Minister Trudeau and President Pena Nieto of Mexico.

As well there was opposition from both sides of the aisles up in Congress.

And, of course, to proceed into the renegotiation, he has had to seek the permission of Congress through the Trade Promotion Authority so we have a pretty clear sense of what the Americans are looking for.

The United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer submitted a list of objectives to Congress about a month ago and then, when he and his colleagues, Chrystia Freeland and Ildefonso Guajardo, the Mexican Trade Minister, opened the negotiations they spelled out what they were looking for as well.

Mr Robertson is confident Canada will have a good indication of how negotiations are going soon after each round.

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Close Canadian ports to US goods

Canada shouldn’t tweak the eagle’s beak: Former diplomat

Colin Robertson, vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former diplomat, says that a B.C. minority government complicates everything from LNG and thermal coal to investment in the province. He also says that the B.C. government should be careful about threats about U.S. coal exports.

05/10/2017 – 11:15 AM EDT

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Trump and Canada and Korea

100 Days Trump and Canada, Korea and Canada-Korea

Air Date: May 01, 2017 12:00 AM ET

Ottawa Morning
100 Days Trump and Canada

00:13 08:57

We take a look at lessons learned from the first 100 days of Canada-Trump relations and what is going on in Korea. .

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NAFTA Renegotiation


Wendy Mesley reports on how trade between the U.S. and Canada got some unwanted attention this week 00:00 05:29

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.04.47 PM

Common interest will ensure Canada-U.S. trade conflicts get solved: Chris Hall CBC

Beyond the ‘noise’ of Trump’s rhetoric are compelling interests for trade co-operation, experts say

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Apr 29, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Apr 30, 2017 2:35 PM ET

NAFTA renegotiations won't be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber.

NAFTA renegotiations won’t be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)


Sunday Scrum: Mixed signals on NAFTA 9:45

Poster of video clip

Canada remains confident a deal can be reached with the United States on softwood lumber without repeating the drawn-out trade litigation of the past.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says reaching a new long-term deal is the best option, even as he repeats his warning that jobs will be lost in Canada as a result of the U.S. lumber industry’s lobbying for new duties on Canadian imports.

“The complications are that you have lobbies at work, lots of political pressures. But our experience is, in all of these conversations, at every level of the United States government and beyond … people see the common interest.”

The U.S. Commerce Department imposed preliminary duties of between three and 24 per cent on Canadian softwood imports this week. More anti-dumping duties are expected in the future.

‘We won’t sign a bad deal’

Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the White House had hoped to get this dispute out of the way before NAFTA negotiations begin.

Michael Froman, who served as former president Barack Obama’s top trade negotiator, told CBC News that a deal was in reach, but the Canadian side felt it could get better terms with Trump.

Trudeau Trump 20170213

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump shake hands after a joint news conference at the White House in Washington in February. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

But in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, the natural resources minister said there was “no good deal possible from the Canadian perspective” with the Obama administration.

“We weren’t prepared to sign a bad deal. We won’t sign a bad deal. If we have to wait it out we will,” said Carr. “And we’ll use all the options available to us, but I don’t think that’s in the interests of either Canada or the United States.”

Even so, Carr believes there’s an opportunity to get a deal. It’s a view shared by Quebec’s lead negotiator, Raymond Chrétien, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Washington in the 1990s.

“I’m confident that there’s a window perhaps for a negotiated settlement for the following reason: Mr. Trump has indicated that he wanted a quick … renegotiation of NAFTA, but this is not possible in my view,” Chrétien said.

“So why not solve the lumber dispute before you tackle the more comprehensive, complicated NAFTA negotiations? So hopefully there’s a small window there, and I’m sure that in Ottawa they would welcome a softwood lumber deal.”

Pushback from U.S. exporters

Softwood is not the only trade irritant Trump is highlighting. He’s blamed Canada for being unfair to American dairy producers. He’s still threatening to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement unless he can negotiate a fair deal for American workers.


Trade experts say U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive posture on trade has alarmed the U.S. agriculture sector, which relies on foreign markets. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington, D.C., said Trump’s rhetoric this week claiming NAFTA has been horrible for the U.S. and a disaster doesn’t match the reality that the trade deal “has been pretty darn good” for the U.S.

“When Donald Trump’s announcements were coming out this week, the U.S. agriculture sector pushed back really hard. U.S. farms depend on exports to Canada and Mexico, and they were having none of this. So he’s gotten a lot of pushback.”

Dawson said the Trump Administration is trying to stir up American opposition to free trade following the failure to get rid of Obamacare and as it meets congressional opposition to a budget plan.

That’s why Dawson thinks Trudeau’s approach is the right one, reminding Trump in one of their phone calls this week of the negative impact that scrapping NAFTA would have on jobs and businesses on both sides of the border.

Partner with Mexico

Dawson said Canada should also work with Mexico as both countries prepare to discuss changes to NAFTA.

Trump Trade

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shakes his fist as he talks about the value of made-in-Mexico products. Canada and Mexico should work together in advance of NAFTA talks, says trade expert Laura Dawson. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

“Mexico has really strong retaliatory power in the United State. Every bit of corn the U.S. exports is bought by Mexico. If they stop buying U.S. corn that would be a big deal for U.S. agriculture. Similarly, the security front — if they stop co-operating on the U.S. southern border … that’s a big deal for the United States.

“So I think Canada needs to be a partner for Mexico.”

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat in the U.S., wrote this week for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute that managing the Trump file — and getting it right — has to be Trudeau’s first priority.

“While much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is merely noise, what is dangerous about the noise is the effect it is having on business confidence, both domestic and foreign.”

What’s gone beyond noise now is the dispute over softwood lumber. Carr said the federal government is prepared to assist those in the forest sector who are affected.

“There will be closures. Sawmills will be under pressure. But nothing yet is certain except that we are prepared with a number of policy options that we will work out with our provincial counterparts, and we will be ready.”

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Donald Tansley Lecture

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2017 Tansley Lecture

Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

April 5, 2017

Colin Robertson


It is an honour to deliver this lecture. I thank the Johnson-Shoyama School for the invitation and those at the University of Regina who have helped me get here. A particular thanks to my friends Dale Eisler and Doug Moen for their advice and to my brother Neil who literally got me here tonight.


The Saskatchewan Mafia


I met Donald Tansley, Al Johnson and Tommy Shoyama when I first arrived in Ottawa. While I do not pretend to have known them I knew their reputations and I took their measure.


What always struck me about that generation of public servants was that this was a generation tempered by war.


Tansley served with the Regina Rifles. Neil and I would retrace their steps – characterized by valour and sacrifice –  at Juno Beach on D-Day and after. It gave them a perspective of life that guided their public service.


Nor did they suffer fools. I know this from personal experience having later served under their colleague Simon ‘Gunner’ Reisman when we negotiated the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement-


As public servants – they were never bureaucrats –  they believed in the power of ideas and in vigorous policy discussion. As Johnson would later write of their time in Saskatchewan they “dreamed no little dreams” and believed in government as a force for good.


They took this attitude to Ottawa when they migrated as members of the ‘Saskatchewan mafia’ who served the governments led by Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

Policy implantation was a piece – you had to make things work. But putting things in auto-drive was not their thing – they all sought to build a better Canada.


The disappointment of our current government’s – that of Justin Trudeau –  in the public service is not their lack of enthusiasm or loyalty but the lack of ideas and the inability to dream big dreams.


Donald Tansley, Al Johnson and Tommy Shoyama were exemplars of what public service can and should be. They set the bar for succeeding generations of public servants. It is why we continue to honour their contribution to our public life.


My interest in the USA


Like most things in life, I came to Canada-US relations through time and chance.


I am a child of the fifties, a Prairie boy who came to public service through a combination of admiration for Lester B.  ‘Mike’ Pearson’s internationalism and the stature and self-confidence that ‘helpful fixing’ gave to Canada. And public service – thanks to the example set by Tansley, Johnson and Shoyama, was both high calling and an honourable profession.


As an undergraduate I read Charles Ritchie’s The Siren Years. Ritchie, who would go on to become our ambassador to Washington during John F, Kennedy’s presidency, wrote of life in London during the Blitz. He worked with Pearson, George Vanier and Vincent Massey at our High Commission, met the King and Queen and bedded ballerinas. It convinced me that the Foreign Service was the life for me.


I was never disappointed in the Foreign Service although in later years the advent of political correctness, senseless accountability, and a government that didn’t care much for its Foreign Service, tested my endurance.


My first assignment was to the UN Bureau where I worked for Geoffrey Pearson, son of Lester Pearson. Through him I met the inimitable Charles Ritchie. I was posted to the General Assembly to the United Nations in New York where I met John Holmes, a protégé of Pearson, who by then was at the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.


Holmes was one of that generation of Canadians who helped engineer the post-war international institutions – the United Nations, the IMF, World Bank, GATT (now the WTO), and the alphabet soup of agencies including FAO, WHO, UNHCR that continue to underwrite international peace and security.


Holmes was in the process of writing a book on Canada-US relations. He remained a steadfast advocate for the rules-based, liberal international system that gave middle powers like Canada a seat, even temporarily, at the great powers table.


Holmes embodied the Pearsonian idea of ‘functionalism’ – the recognition within the international system that competence, not power, should determine membership and weight to the specialized agencies dealing with issues like food and refugees that give middle powers like Canada place and standing.


But Holmes recognized that the United States was the anchor and guardian of our rules-based, liberal international system. His advice to me was to specialize and to better understand the United States. For Canada, he told me, it would always be the United States and then the rest.


Holmes didn’t like anti-Americanism or the Canadian temptation to be smug and superior: “Stern daughter of the Voice of God” was how Dean Acheson, a former American Secretary of State, famously described this unfortunate Canadian characteristic.


Like most Canadians I plead guilty to describing myself by what we are not – Americans and I will never forget after a session of self-satisfied grousing with fellow junior diplomats in the UN delegates lounge, a Polish diplomat, older than the rest of us – he endured the  Second World War, the Nazis and then Soviet occupation – quietly observed to me: “Would you rather be us?”


There is a natural insecurity that comes from living next door to Goliath. As Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau memorably quipped to the National Press Club in Washington, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant: no matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”


Fortunately, my childrens’ generation don’t suffer from this affliction. Instead, as the jingle from the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics put it, they want to own the podium. That’s progress of which we should be proud.


One of my mentors and our longest serving ambassador to the United States, Allan Gotlieb, reminds me that the United States is more than a country, it is a civilization.


And the rules-based liberal international order that most of us grew up under and which has preserved the peace, not imperfectly but certainly better than any other period in world history, was created by and sustained by American leadership.


Holmes believed that we had to cut the US some slack – there is always a trap door for the great powers and, as great powers go, the US used this privilege sparingly.

It was important, he argued, that we be a good and trusted neighbour to the United States because then, as he wrote in his book Life with Uncle, “we could tell them when their breath is bad,”


For me, Holmes’ Life with Uncle and Allan Gotlieb’s I’ll be with you in a minute Mr. Ambassador, remain the two best guides for active practitioners in Canada-US relations.


I kept copies on my desk when I served in Washington. Their advice helped focus my own thinking on managing Uncle Sam in the Trump Administration.


As you can see, I took Holmes’ career advice to focus on the USA. I returned to New York to work at the Consulate General for Ken Taylor – that most cool of Canadian diplomats and a true hero. I later served in Los Angeles as Consul General and then in Washington as the first head of the Advocacy Secretariat.


I was also a member of the Canadian teams that negotiated the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement.


My travels have taken me to every state in the Union.


On Canada-US relations, I reckon I’ve done my 10 000 hours – Malcolm Gladwell’s definition of deliberate practise to become competent – but I will confess the election of Donald Trump surprised me.


The Trump Phenomenon


Donald Trump is not a typical president. According to the Washington Post, during his first 70 days in office he has made 343 false or misleading claims. As Winston Churchill once observed, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.


Mr. Trump is not an establishment Republican – he quickly dispatched Jeb Bush, little Marco and the rest. He defeated the conservative standard-bearer ‘Lying Ted’ Cruz. And while he didn’t win the popular vote he took the electoral college from ‘Crooked Hillary’.


That the Russians intervened in the US election is incontestable according to intelligence agencies, although whether he won because of their intervention is an open question.


Don’t underestimate Mr. Trump. He went into the campaign with only a 1 percent probability of winning the Republican nomination and on the day of the election was still given odds of less than one in three of becoming president.


Trump confounds not just Canadians and, if the surveys are right, most Americans and certainly the rest of the world.


I think he won because Americans wanted change from a Washington that they felt no longer worked for them. Trump appealed to this feeling of loss of control. The Wall would restore integrity to borders. The Muslim ban would keep out migrants and terrorists. As master of the Art of the Deal he’d restore ‘Made in America’ and keep out foreign goods. And he’d drain the swamp in Washington.


As one journalist put it Trump’s supporters took him seriously but not literally while the elite took him literally but not seriously.


Trump’s messaging – including his early hour tweets – continue to be a simple, persuasive and appealing: ‘Make America Great Again…America First…Buy American…Hire American’.


As he said in his Inaugural Address, “the forgotten men and women in America” are “forgotten no longer…Everyone is listening to you now.” Donald Trump the tribune of the people.


Some of the messaging– the appeal to protectionism and nativism –  accounts for the surprising Brexit vote and is now at play in the forthcoming French and German elections.


Is Canada immune from these frustrations? By this I mean

the sense that the system isn’t fair and that the system has created advantages for some, the lack of trust in our institutions, the divide between those who have and those who don’t, and the sense that our kids will be worse off than we are.


I don’t think so.


I think that the conundrum around fairness and inequality – not climate, not terrorism – is the really big public policy challenge for our time.


Dealing with President Trump


We need to take President Trump seriously and, as we are learning, often literally.


With three-quarters of Canada’s exports headed to the USA this is our key market. We cannot change our geography, nor would we want to.


We enjoy preferred access to United States. Now we are going to have to negotiate to preserve that access.

Our prosperity and security depends on it.


Canadian policy will require care, circumspection and engagement. But above all engagement.


As we go into trade negotiations with the Trump administration and Congress, active engagement by Canadians, armed with a clear sense of our national objectives, is crucial to success.


This means all hands-on deck and a game-plan supported by all levels of government.


This being Canada, this also means achieving consensus, not unanimity. To remind ourselves, we fought an election around free trade in 1988. Only three provinces – Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba -gave the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney a majority of their votes.


But free trade worked for Canada. It resulted not just in prosperity but an attitudinal shift on the part of Canadians.


Where once we wondered about our capacity to compete internationally, we now are confident that we can truly own the podium.


I am aware of the controversy around the Global Transportation Hub, but the concept of inland ports with global reach is exactly what Saskatchewan and Canada should be doing.


Where once premiers were divided about the merits of free trade, today every premier, regardless of political stripe, is out on the international circuit promoting trade. Premier Wall is in Washington this week engaged in developing new relationships and building on existing ones. His overriding message is about the vitality and mutual benefits of our trading relationship.


NAFTA worked well


Although it is not appreciated in the United States, NAFTA worked for Americans as well as Canadians. The NAFTA, which improved the FTA and brought in Mexico, helped spark a decade-long economic advance in all three nations.


Some facts gathered by the Council on Foreign Relations that are not generally known or appreciated by Americans:


  • S. trade with its North American neighbors has more than tripled, growing more rapidly than U.S. trade with the rest of the world.
  • Research from the Peterson Institute concluded that the nearly two hundred thousand export-related jobs created annually by the pact pay 15 to 20 percent more on average than the jobs that were lost.
  • Canada and Mexico are the two largest destinations for U.S. exports, accounting for more than a third of the total.
  • Some fourteen million jobs rely on trade with Canada and Mexico – nine million with Canada alone according to a study conducted for the Canadian Embassy. Canadian companies operating in the U.S. directly employ 500,000


These facts need to be underlined to our American friends again and again in the coming months.


A word about Mexico: Mexico is now Canada’s third largest trading partner and our entrée to the Americas. While Canada and Mexico will pursue their own interests in these negotiations, as sovereign countries do, we need to keep in close contact because divide and conquer is integral to Mr. Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’.


Getting Ready: All Hands on Deck


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are doing an effective job of outreach to the Trump Administration, Congress and now into the states, especially those states that voted for Mr. Trump.


In a speech before the election Justin Trudeau remarked that “a former Prime Minister – and not the one you think – once said to me that the PM has three big responsibilities:

  • Grow the economy;
  • Unify the country; and
  • Successfully manage our relationship with the United States.”

For our American cousins, said Trudeau, the relationship is consequential. For us, “it has often been definitional.


The advice on priorities came from Brian Mulroney, the prime minister who best understands the Canada-US dynamic. As Mr. Mulroney, whom Mr. Trudeau has smartly enlisted in the outreach to the Trump team, observed:


“The golden rule of Canada-US relations is very simple. We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Americans are very important to us. We know they are, notwithstanding the differences, our best ally, our closest neighbour, our biggest customer. “


Mulroney, speaking at the time in Washington at a tribute to Ronald Reagan, went on to add, “There is also a rule of global politics – Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a significant degree by the extent to which we are perceived as having real influence in Washington.”


Trudeau is also practicing well what former US Ambassador Gordon Giffin called the Goldilock’s rule of Canada-US relations: Don’t let the relationship get too close – we Canadians like some distance. But don’t let it get too cold, either.


I think Mr. Trudeau has found the right temperature and created the right team for our negotiations. Putting Chrystia Freeland, who brought home both country of origin labelling and the Canada-Europe agreement, as both Foreign Minister and minister responsible for trade with the USA, is brilliant.


Having former General Andrew Leslie as parliamentary secretary is also very smart. He knows personally Generals McMaster (National Security Advisor), Mattis (Secretary of Defence), and Kelly (Homeland Security Secretary).


General Leslie joined Premier Wall recently in Iowa where they spoke to Iowa legislators and met with Governor Terry Branstead (whom Mr. Trump has nominated as US ambassador to China).


This kind of strategic federal-provincial collaboration that Canadians want to see.


Prime Minister Trudeau was in Houstpn recently  –  he told an American energy executive audience that pipelines and action on climate were entirely compatible – he was joined by Albert Premier Rachel Notley. He also warned, to the applause of his American audience, that a border adjustment tax would hurt both economies.


We have the right team in Washington.


Our ambassador, David MacNaughton, is shrewd and unflappable – the right temperament for these volatile times. He has the trust of the prime minister and, in quarterbacking the outreach to the Trump team, he has been very effective.


Our negotiating team will be headed by Steve Verheul, our Chief Negotiator for the Canada-Europe trade agreement/ He is well known to his provincial counterparts through his role as our CETA Chief Negotiator. Saskatchewan farming community will be pleased to know that he cut his negotiating teeth on agriculture. Like MacNaughton, Verheul is low-key and effective.


He will lead an experienced team, many have just come off the CETA and/or the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.


President Trump has foolishly jettisoned the TPP – the comprehensive deal with 12 other Pacific nations, including the USA and Mexico. There is a lot in that agreement that, inevitably, will be applied to the upcoming negotiations.


Preparing and negotiating the Canada game-plan has to involve all levels of government and our most experienced hands, regardless of partisan affiliation.


The fact that Mr. Mulroney and Derek Burney, his former chief of staff who later served as ambassador to Washington (and was both my boss and one of my mentors) are attending the cabinet committee on Canada-US relations tomorrow is visible demonstration of this ‘Team Canada’ approach.


This also means the provinces and the national government working together like lips and teeth in preparations and negotiations. The model should be the Canada-Europe trade negotiations where provinces were full partners and at the negotiating table.


Of critical importance will be the premiers with their governor counterparts and provincial members with their state counterparts. If we are to make the gains we want in terms of access to procurement – and that means sales and contracts for Canadians – we need the states to be onside.


Premier Wall needs to repeat his 2010 effort when he took a delegation of premiers to Washington during the Natioanl Governors Conference and negotiated a reciprocal agreement on procurement purchasing. If Mr. Trump gets his way the US procurement plan could be worth a trillion dollars.


In the meantime, the premiers should create a standing committee of the Council of Federation and figure out what it is we want from the USA and what we are prepared to give in return for gains. They should start with softwood lumber because next month we are going to start paying through the nose for our lumber exports to the USA.


Softwood is a dispute dating to George Washington’s second term – Canada has a natural advantage in wood. Softwood lumber and its variation – ‘shakes and shingles’ – threatened to derail the negotiations that eventually led to the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1988.


Forestry practises are a provincial responsibility and the premiers need to figure this one out. Until then the Americans will happily collect our dollars. Softwood lumber is also a reminder of the importance of having alternate markets than the USA.


Business has an important role.


The big companies – the GEs and GMs need to step up and warn President Trump of the threat to their supply chains, especially for manufactured goods –  from soup to computers to trains, planes and automobiles. Supply chains work for North Americans.


We need to apply the people-to-people relationships, especially when the prevailing policy is ‘America First’ and because, as President Trump declared in his Inaugural Speech, “We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.”


Plus ça change


The congressional hearings that will begin shortly will generate a lot of heat and noise. Much of it will be aimed at Mexico but Canada will also come in for its share of criticism.


Canadians should not panic. It’s a useful venting session and it will give our negotiators a better sense of what will be on the American agenda when they sit down later this year to open up the now 23 year-old NAFTA.


Some perspective:


“I have recently talked quite a lot to Americans about how they perceive, or misperceive, Canada-U.S. trade. I have called their misperceptions the seven deadly myths. l listed them as follows: Canada is not the American’s biggest trading partner; that we try to keep our dollar low to gain an unfair trade advantage; that we have piled up huge trade surpluses; that we subsidize trade and the Americans don’t; that public sector ownership automatically equals subsidy; that we are not the biggest energy supplier to the United States; and that a free trade agreement would benefit only Canada and not the U.S”


Those words aren’t mine but those of Allan Gotlieb, our longest serving ambassador to the USA in a speech he delivered almost in 1987 -thirty years ago – to Toronto’s Empire Club.


As the French say Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


Main Messages to Americans


My mother used to tell me that on an exam the key is to answer the question asked, not what I’d like to tell them. It is a lesson that has taken me years to learn. So how do we manage Mr. Trump?


How many of you have travelled to the USA in the last year or plan on travelling in the next year?


We start with three main messages to Americans:

  • First: We are a reliable ally and security partner. In the USA, security trumps everything else so start every conversation reminding Americans that we have their back.
  • Second: We are a fair and trusted trading partner. Canada is the main market for 35 states and the second market for the rest. US trade with Canada generates 9 million jobs. It’s more than trade, it’s ‘making things together’ through supply chains to our mutual advantage. And one of my favourite factoids: The average Canadian eats $629 worth of US agri-food products annually. The average American spent $69 on Canadian agri-food products.
  • Third: Canada is a secure, stable and reliable source of energy. It lights up Broadway, keeps the cable cars going in San Francisco and powers the Mall of America in Minnesota and it fuels American manufacturing. With $2 billion dollars in trade daily, Canada has a slight surplus because we provide 40 percent of US energy imports. Otherwise, they enjoy the surplus.


Rules of the Road


Let me now give you ten rules of the road that we Canadians need to think about in managing Mr. Trump and the US relationship.


  1. What is our ’Ask’? What will we ’Give’? Know our Facts.


Messaging must be blunt and on point. And get to the point. It is not a level playing field. We only have a better than even chance when we are playing on ice.


  1. We need to get our act together within governments, with business, labour, and civil society.


The Americans will exploit our differences to our cost as we are learning, once again, on softwood lumber where they will happily collect their import levy until we get our own act together.


We have a good brand but we need to develop it and use it more strategically. Americans like us more than we like them. As Margaret Atwood famously observed, when Americans look north they look into a mirror and see a reflection of themselves. There are always more Americans who think like Canadians than there are Canadians.


Canadians, of course, too often define themselves by what we are not – Americans. It’s an insecurity we have to get over.




Americans don’t mind differences but they don’t like being blind-sided especially on security issues like ballistic missile defence or Iraq. And linkage between issues is tricky and rarely works to our advantage.


  1. Relationships are everything. We would never have got the Canada-US FTA but for Brian Mulroney’s friendship with Ronald Reagan.


Our networks need a thousand points of contact. I applaud Saskatchewan legislators John Nilson and Wayne Elhard for their continuous and constructive efforts with their fellow state legislators including the Mid-West State Legislators, the Pacific Northwest Economic Forum and NASCO. Nilson and Elhard may have represented sat on different sides of the aisle in the legislature but when they traveled to the USA they took a Team Saskatchewan and Team Canada approach. Nilson and Elhard set the bar for their successors in the Legislature.


Make it a US issue and identify US allies. This is how we’ve gotten around various ‘Buy America’ restrictions. Recently, for example, the US acted against aluminium imports. The target was China but, as is often the case wwith US protectionism, we got sideswiped.


We make aluminum in Quebec. The workers are members of the United Steelworkers Union. The Steelworkers have been particular advocates of Buy America. But they consider their Canadian brothers and sisters to be part of ‘America’ so we got an exemption. It helps that their president, Leo Gerard, is a Canadian. A reminder that we need to make use of the international union ties between Canada and the USA.


And play by their rules so use lobbyists and lawyers.


If at first you don’t succeed try and try again. If you still aren’t getting through change your pitch. Practice and persistence makes perfect.


Pitching is retail and a contact sport. As an icebreaker, knowledge of US college football and basketball is very useful. A good way to meet Americans: join a church … or a gun club.


  1. Ottawa does not have all the answers.


The provinces have competence and experience.


Trust the staff at our missions in the USA – the Embassy and our Consulates for their read of the local environment. They know a lot and have a superb rolodex of contacts.


  1. The Administration is our entry point but the battleground is Congress and the states. We need to devote more attention to legislators – both in Congress and in the states.


Special interests – business, labor, environmentalist, minorities represented by lawyers and lobbyists – fund legislators and drive domestic policies eg ‘Buy America’. Protectionism is as American as apple pie – a deep-rooted political response to structural problems in the U.S. economy. For legislators, who must fundraise daily, all politics is local.


  1. Beware of noise and don’t get spooked.


A lot of what we are hearing now and what we will hear in the coming weeks of congressional hearings on NAFTA is positioning. The Americans are masters at positioning and it will excite the excitable and give the Toronto Star a daily feed of dramatic headlines.


We need to differentiate between the real and the improbable.


The bogeyman out there is the border adjustment tax – a real threat because it is endorsed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.


But the Americans also recognize that, as in in physics, for every action there is a reaction and if they adopt a border tax so will we and other nations. The closest parallel would be the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that contributed mightily to the Great Depression. No one wants to go down that road.


Most congressional legislation fails but we tend to behave like Chicken Little every time we see something we don’t like.


Again, their system is different from ours with checks and balances and separation of power.


  1. Go for Gold.


We are better than we think we are but there is a Canadian tendency to think about compromise from the outset – a natural reflection of our national character that has had to come to terms with geography and climate.


But compromising before we sit down is a mistake with the Americans. We should not out-negotiate ourselves beforehand. In other words, ask for what we really want rather than what we think they will give us. Nor should we ever expect gratitude on what we think we did for them.


This is not a problem for the USA. Business is business and the business of America is business.


  1. It’s a permanent campaign that needs all hands on deck – all levels of government, business, labor and civil society and ordinary Canadians who have American friends and family and who spend time in the USA.


Further Reading


Former US Ambassador David Jacobson used to say “Canadians think they know everything about Americans and Americans think they know all they need to know about Canadians.” We are, Jacobson concluded, “both wrong”.


And here are some books that you might want to look at to help you learn more about our favourite neighbour.  I particularly recommend Richard Haass’ A World in Disarray. Haass was head of policy planning in the Bush Administration’s State Department and now heads the Council on Foreign Relations. And for an insight into Trump America read J D Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.


On America


I am worried about our southern neighbour but the Founding Fathers designed a Constitution to prevent another King.


While Mr. Trump and George III may share certain attributes, the Constitution with its checks and balances and separation of powers also applies to Donald Trump.

And it works.


The courts over-tuned his executive order to keep out Muslims and his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch was emphatic about the independence of the judiciary. Despite holding a majority in Congress, Obamacare remains the law of the land. And his national security team – Mr. Tillerson and Generals McMaster, Kelly, Mattis are sound. Waterboarding is not coming back.


I leave you with this observation from the greatest modern observer of the United States, Alastair Cooke.


As a boy, I listened to Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America. He delivered his fifteen minute broadcast weekly from 1946-2004, nearly sixty years to audiences around the world through the BBC. Those of you with hair my colour will remember him as the host of Masterpiece Theatre.


While posted in New York I met Cooke at the English-Speaking Union. He had recently finished his epic television series on America: A Personal History of the United States.


America in 1979 was going through a bad patch. New York City was dirty and crime was a problem.There were gas lines and Jimmy Carter told people to turn down the heat and wear cardigans. The Russians had gone into Afghanistan and I wondered about the West.


I had the impression of a nation in decline. I asked Cooke what he thought of the future of the United States. He then told me that “In America, the race is on between its decadence and its vitality, and it has lots of both’.


Cooke paused and added that one should never underestimate another American quality- its remarkable resiliency.


I think Cooke is right and to end on a hopeful note I give the last words to Winston Churchill: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

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