G20 Buenos Aries and USMCA

USMCA signing could be overshadowed by larger divisions between nations at G20

The summit is expected to be dominated by U.S.-China spat and Saudi crown prince’s pariah status

A jetliner flies over the G20 summit venue at the Costa Salguero Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (Gustavo Garello/Associated Press)

Officials don’t know yet who will sign the pact. And they haven’t said exactly when, or where, it’s going to happen.

But when the G20 summit in Buenos Aires is over, the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico are supposed to be coming home with a newly signed trade agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday his government was “still in discussions” with Washington about the timing and circumstances of the official United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement signing event. At any rate, it may turn out to be a hold-your-nose moment for the Trudeau government, which had hoped to see U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum lifted before signing day.

The chances that the tariffs will even be discussed at the summit, let alone lifted, are so slim that a source tells CBC News that Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. isn’t even going to Argentina.

Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton will not attend the G20 summit in Argentina, a source tells CBC News.(Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

David MacNaughton has been a key leader for the Canadian trade negotiating team, but he will not be present for the anticipated signing ceremony, or for any sideline talks with the Americans in Buenos Aires.

While the USMCA signing will be big news in Canada when it happens, it’s likely to be overshadowed by the larger global divisions on display at the G20.

The official agenda will see leaders discussing different approaches to sustainable and fair growth for the global economy. But these conversations come at a time when confidence in multilateral institutions is declining.

“How do we preserve that system that has sustained peace and prosperity for 70 years?” said Colin Robertson, a VP at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, when asked which question he’d like to see leaders tackle in Argentina. “Because it really has come into question in the last couple of years.”

The Americans have been at the centre of two summits that ended in diplomatic disaster in this year alone.

Most recently, the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea ended without a communique, as trade frustrations between the U.S. and China flared.

In June, the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec ended with President Trump pulling his support for the communique and lashing out at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him “weak.”

“The rules-based order depends on the ability of the leaders from very diverse backgrounds to get together and try and come up with solutions that will take the world forward,” Robertson said.

“Mr. Trump is a disruptive force.”

U.S.-China trade tensions

Trade frustrations and market disruptions will be at the centre of a summit sideline meeting between Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Nov. 9, 2017. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

It’s likely to be the last face-to-face discussion between the leaders before January 1 — when the U.S. is set to increase tariffs on more than $250 billion worth of Chinese goods unless China makes significant changes to its trading practices.

The ripple effect of an escalating trade war between China and the U.S. certainly would have consequences for Canada, but there isn’t much Canada can do apart from stand by and watch the conflict unfold.

“We don’t have that much influence, certainly not a great relationship between Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Trump. With the Chinese … we don’t have that kind of access or influence to act as mediators,” Patrick Leblond, an associate professor in international affairs at the University of Ottawa, told Radio-Canada.

“We need to work with our other partners, certainly the EU, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to see how we can make sure that the tensions and the conflict do not escalate.”

Avoiding MBS

The other significant sideline distraction will be the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prince —​ widely known as ‘MBS’ — has arrived in Argentina already, two days ahead of the summit’s official start.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Ministro Pistarini in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. (G20 via Reuters)

World leaders, including Trudeau, may go out of their way to avoid the prince, given the lingering questions about his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I think that the handlers on both sides will make every effort to make sure they don’t cross paths. You certainly aren’t going to see Mr. Trudeau giving him a handshake,” said Robertson.

Canada is one of several G20 countries still assessing its response to the murder of the Washington Post columnist.

While Prince Mohammed has denied any involvement, western leaders, including those in Canada, have questioned the credibility of the Saudis’ defence.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who will be in Buenos Aires, has said Canada is considering sanctions against those involved in Khashoggi’s murder. Last week, Freeland also said the government is reviewing arms sales to Saudi Arabia and won’t issue new arms export permits during that period of review.

The Trump administration has sanctioned more than a dozen individuals believed to be linked to the killing. But President Trump has decided against further action, arguing it would harm the U.S.-Saudi business relationship.

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Winners and Losers US MCA

Who are the real winners and losers in the USMCA deal?

Canadian consumer will have more choice, says one researcher

From left to right, U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The three countries have reached a new trade deal to be called the the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA for short. (Kevin Lamarque, Daniel Becerril, Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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Canadian consumers are among the biggest winners in the new USMCA deal, according to a researcher who focuses on international trade.

“In terms of dairy, wine, the de minimis threshold — I mean, it was all in the right direction in terms of easier access to goods and services abroad, lower prices and greater variety for the Canadian consumer,” said Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at George Mason University.

The de minimis threshold for duty-free shopping — the amount that Canadians can buy in the U.S. and bring back across the border without having to pay a duty — increased from $20 to $150.

The new deal — set to replace NAFTA — has been criticized by the steel and aluminum sectors for not removing U.S. tariffs, but praised by the auto industry for stopping those same tariffs affecting them. The dairy sector is disappointed over concessions made to push the deal through, while the government has been praised for preserving the independent dispute resolution mechanism.

The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti was joined by trade experts from all three countries to help tally up the wins and losses of the USMCA:

  • Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who helped negotiate the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and later NAFTA. He is now vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Antonio Ortiz-Mena, an economist who was part of Mexico’s negotiating team when NAFTA was first drafted. He’s now senior vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group, which provides strategic trade advice.
  • Christine McDaniel, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her research focuses on international trade and economics

    VOICE: I’m looking forward to signing this agreement with Presidents Trump and Pena Nieto. And I really would like to stress this will be good for workers in all three of our countries.

    AMT: There are wins and losses in the new US-Mexico-Canada agreement. Whose wins and whose losses? We’re asking. I’m Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.

    Who are the real winners and losers in the USMCA deal?

    Guests: Christine McDaniel, Colin Roberston, Antonio Ortiz-Mena

    SOUNDCLIP

    VOICE 1: When the Prime Minister offered to renegotiate NAFTA, there were no sunset clauses, steel tariffs or auto quotas. And we already had a dispute resolution mechanism. So these are not new gains in this deal. So we had hoped that the government might negotiate gains for Canada, like an end to the buy America policy that cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

    VOICE 2: Canadians are pleased today that we are moving forward on a historic record that stabilizes, secures and offers certainty to investors to Canadian businesses, but mostly to workers and folks in the middle class.

    AMT: So was it a win for Canada or not so much? You heard Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau going back and forth there yesterday in the House of Commons over USMCA, the United States Mexico Canada agreement, is set to replace NAFTA. I’m joined by trade experts from all three countries to help tally up the wins and losses for all involved. Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat who helped negotiate the Canada US Free Trade Agreement and later NAFTA. He is now vice president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He is in Mexico City. Antonio Ortiz-Mena is an economist who was part of Mexico’s negotiating team when NAFTA was first drafted. He’s been head of economic affairs at the Mexican embassy in the U.S. He’s now senior VP at the Albright Stonebridge Group, which provides strategic trade advice. He’s in Washington, D.C. And for the U.S. Christine McDaniel is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her research focuses on international trade and economics. She is also in Washington. Hi everyone.

    CHRISTINE MCDANIEL: Good Morning.

    ANTONIO ORTIZ-MENA: Hello.

    AMT: First of all, USMCA, is anybody calling you US-M-CA or anything like that? Like what are we calling it?

    CM: We’re calling it USMC.

    AMT: For now.

    CM: We’re trying to out how to say it really quickly.

    AMT: OK. I’m going to go around the table quickly and just get a sense of what you see as the most important gain for each country. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, let’s start. Most important gain for Mexico, quickly.

    AOM: Quickly, the fact that there is a new agreement as opposed to just endless uncertainty, in general. Specifically I’m quite obsessed about dispute settlement mechanism. So I’m glad to see that there is a strong dispute settlement mechanism. I think apart from that everything is less important.

    AMT: Colin Robertson. Hello, Colin. Colin Robertson did we lose you? OK while we try to find him, Christine McDaniel very quickly, what do you see as the most important gain for the United States?

    CM: Well I think the biggest gain right now is just the sense of relief you know that we averted disaster. And you know investor confidence hopefully will be built back up you know to the extent it was sort of on the brink there.

    AMT: OK. Colin Robertson what do you see as the biggest win for Canada?

    CR: Well I think I agree with Antonio that dispute settlement mechanism, but importantly the market certainty. You saw the market track yesterday that we now have a deal in the kind of zombie NAFTA zone. That wasn’t good for Canada or Mexico. That having access now once again to the biggest market in the world is important for Canada.

    AMT: Colin Robertson, I want to ask you I’m looking at the CBC opinion page today. Neil Macdonald has a piece where he says that under this deal, if Canada wants a trade deal with China, it must signal its intent ahead of time to the United States. It must submit the text of any deal to the United States and then accept Washington’s verdict on that.

    CR: Well I think what it says is, if Canada has an agreement with a non-market economy and I think you’re going to get some dispute as to because China is a member of the World Trade Organization, but is it a non-market economy. But it’s not a clause I’ve seen before, others have commented on it, Peter Clark as well. We’ll see how what it means in application.

    AMT: And doe that worry you? Given that Canada the real push that came out yesterday from various sectors in Canada was to say Canada needs to diversify so it doesn’t end up on a precipice again.

    CR: No because I think what that there is pressure on China, Canada is part of that steel reduction and things to bring China more fully into how we trade amongst nations and I think the more likely you would see efforts to bring China into what we now call the comprehensive from progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I think is going to become the benchmark for trade agreements in the Pacific. And Canada and Mexico are both members of that and I see that as more likely to be the new benchmark and the encouragement to bring China into that and China will have to take on certain obligations.

    AMT: Let’s talk about some of the losses. Colin Robertson, we heard some negative reaction from dairy farmers on concessions regarding U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market. Canada has says it will compensate dairy farmers. What are we looking at there?

    CR: Well if the United States had joined the Trans-Pacific partnership, we would have given the United States an additional three and a half percent 3.25 percent quota. Instead we’re now giving them I think something like 3.75 percent quota. We’ve given the Europeans about 3 percent quota. So 90 percent of the market is still very much in Canadian hands, so it’s a very small increase. And as you pointed out, the governments, provincial and federal, have offered compensation. We did something similar with the wine industry after the negotiations of the Canada-US free trade agreement and you know it really did turn around our wine industry. Now we sell Canadian wines all over the world. So I think rather than looking at it defensively, we should be looking at it the same way our beef and pork, our grains and our pulse, we we are world gangbusters. I don’t see any reason why our dairy producers and you think of the superb cheeses we produce, strictly out of Quebec, why we can’t turn that around and become real international competition as we are in other parts of the agriculture sector.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, if Canada is going to compensate the provinces and the federal government, dairy farmers for any losses. Is that how does the United States see that, does that go against free trade?

    CM: Well that’s their prerogative to do. You’ll recall that the United States is doing something similar or are considering doing something similar on agriculture in terms of the effects on US farmers from retaliation from China and others. So you know as long as it’s within the WTO rules and you stay within those parameters then it’s the country’s prerogative to do that.

    AMT: And so what’s the reaction in the United States that this deal has given more access to the Canadian dairy market?

    CM: Well I think it’s positive. It’s definitely in the right direction. I think you know one of the bigger winners here are the Canadian consumers. You know in terms of dairy, wine, the de minimus threshold. I mean it was all in the right direction, you know in terms of you know easier access to goods and services abroad, lower prices and greater variety for the Canadian consumer.

    AMT: Let’s talk about wine for a minute. In BC, the wine industry is going to have changes because the winds have traditionally had exclusivity in grocery stores in the province. Listen to Karen Graham, a wine industry consultant.

    SOUNDCLIP

    VOICE: For the BC wine industry it means a few different things. Some of them certainly today or by November 1, 2019 to be feeling the pinch a little bit in terms of increased competition on BC wine and grocery store shelves.

    AMT: Colin Robertson, there’s unhappiness on that front. What do you think?

    CR: Well this is an example of a kind of what we call non-tariff barriers. No nation is immune from protectionism and essentially what was being practiced in British Columbia was protectionism on behalf of the local vintners. Now again, I say BC makes a very good product. The BC wines are going to have to share shelf space with wines from the US and others. Something we really should have been doing under our NAFTA obligations. And this was sort of rectified in this agreement. I don’t see a problem because I think if you like BC wines, you’re still going to be seeing BC wines, but when you go in and you look at their shelf, you’re now going to have more choice. Yes, some of it is coming from the States, but you’re still going to have the BC wines there. It is up to the consumer to choose, which one he wants to get. And the fact we’re now in accordance with obligations we really undertook under the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

    AMT: I want to ask about the auto industry. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, how will changes in that sector impact Mexico?

    AOM: Well I think that the auto agreements are both a win and a loss for Mexico. I think they’re a loss because Mexico would have preferred to keep the original regional content rule of 62.5 percent regional value added. The fact that it went higher and that it has some wage related requirements means that the rules are pretty complex, they’re cumbersome and some companies might opt to trade under WTO rules, which only provide 42.5 percent tariff. And there’s also a side agreement whereby both Mexico and Canada have a guaranteed quota of 2.6 million autos to be exported from Canada or Mexico to the US, should the US impose new tariffs on autos, under national security laws. So I think that the rules again are very high. They could be cumbersome to implement and we’re looking at a world where this is some sort of an insurance policy. Why do we talk about quotas when we didn’t have quotas 25 years ago? The only way to understand that is we’re entering a new more protectionist world. So this sort of a sthe new agreements insurance policy provision. That’s the way I see it.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, you’ve said you’ve had mixed feelings on this. How so?

    CM: Well I think you know the North American auto industry has been a relatively competitive on a global scale, but US, Mexico, Canada, automakers in the region, they need access to globally competitive priced inputs. You know I mean if was profit maximizing for them to have you know done some of these things in the past, then they would have been doing that. So you know this is you know putting a restriction on how much you know particular firms in a particular sector must pay their workers, restrictions on where they can get their inputs, at what price and how much. You know these are things that will restrict automakers in the region. You know in a time where you know the real growth is in Asia, so we want a strong competitive globally competitive automotive sector. And these restrictions do not necessarily align with that you know investor confidence.

    AMT: Colin Roberston, I’ll just get you to be brief on the impact for Canada because I want to go to one more topic too.

    CR: No, we’ve moved to similar to what we have in lumber, we’ve moved to manage trade in autos. Keep in mind this is something Donald Trump was insistent on and I make the bigger point is that these negotiations were not initiated by Canada or Mexico. This was very much initiated by the United States. I think the fundamental reason is that Canada and Mexico, 75 percent of our trade is with the United States. Only 18 percent or 17 percent of US trade is with Canada or Mexico. So the US exercised, under Donald Trump, exercised that leverage. I think we’ve come out of this OK. Is it perfect? No, but I think we’re in any trade agreement you take wins and losses and I think overall this is good. And you saw the market reaction, the fact we still have continued access to the biggest market in the world, that’s important for Canada Mexico.

    AMT: Colin Roberston, what about patent protection on certain drug classes being extended another two years. There are concerns that that could really affect provincial pharmacare plans and Canadians buying drugs.

    CR: I think that’s correct, although the cost of that through and the fact that we act as a bit of a cartel when we buy the drug. So yes there’s an additional two years protection for a particular stream of drugs called biologics. But you’re correct, Anna Maria, is the potential for slightly higher costs over a period of time is there, but mitigated in part by the fact that Canadian provinces who are the sort of administer the health care, do act as a cartel to try and get best prices from those they’re buying from.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, we know the pharma lobby in the United States is one of the biggest lobby is that they had to get this deal. What was going on there?

    CR: Well remember back in our TPP days, they were lobbying very hard for 12 years on data exclusivity protection for biologics. And you know the end of the day, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, many others, banded together and really blocked that effort by the United States to do that. So the US was not able, it did not look like it was going to be able to do that in TPP. The fact that you know it appears to have sort of twisted Mexico’s arm and then for Canada join in they had it you know reluctantly agree to something that they apparently didn’t want to do earlier. You know that’s I think that’s interesting. Although they didn’t get, US didn’t get the full 12 years, they got 10 years.

    AMT: I’ve got music coming up. Means we’re running out of time. Thank you all of you for weighing in on some of these issues today.

    CM: You bet. Thank you.

    AMT: That’s Colin Robertson, vice president and fellow at Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, senior vice president of the Albright Stonebridge Group and Christine McDaniel at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Stay with us. This is The Current.

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Trudeau in California

Trudeau to meet with Amazon, eBay CEOs on 4-day U.S. trip

Prime minister to promote trade, look for investment while visiting Illinois and California

By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: Feb 07, 2018 4:00 AM ETLast Updated: Feb 07, 2018 10:36 AM ET

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to use his meetings with influential American CEOs to remind U.S. lawmakers about the importance of NAFTA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to use his meetings with influential American CEOs to remind U.S. lawmakers about the importance of NAFTA (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is gearing up for four days of critical meetings with lawmakers and business leaders as he heads out on yet another trade and investment mission to the U.S.

But Trudeau has one closed-door discussion planned that’s certain to get more attention than the rest.

On Thursday, he will be meeting with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. The tech giant is in the middle of its search for a second headquarters — and Toronto is on the short list.

Trudeau will be under pressure to make a strong pitch on Toronto’s behalf during his face-to-face meeting with Bezos.

Amazon plans to spend up to $5 billion US on its second headquarters, which it says will create 50,000 new high-paying jobs.

More than 200 cities in Canada and the U.S. bid for the facility, but Toronto is the only Canadian city still being seriously considered for the new location.

Canada’s largest city is up against several major U.S. hubs, including Boston, New York and Chicago.

Familiar trade pitch

The Bezos meeting is just one aspect of Trudeau’s trip south of the border.

Over the next four days, he will visit Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles to promote NAFTA and the importance of the Canada-U.S. trading relationship.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson calls these types of missions essential to the Canada-U.S. relationship.

“I think the one thing Donald Trump has taught us is that you can’t take the U.S. for granted,” he told CBC News.

TRADE-NAFTA/

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Trudeau at the White House on Oct. 11, 2017. ‘The one thing Donald Trump has taught us is that you can’t take the U.S. for granted,’ former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said of the current U.S. president. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“We do not make enough trips into the United States, given the relative weight of the United States and its importance on the Canadian economy.” 

The pitching begins in Chicago, where Trudeau will deliver a keynote speech today at the University of Chicago and participate in a discussion with David Axelrod, former U.S. president Barack Obama’s chief election strategist.

Before the event, he will sit down with several political leaders, including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also served as Obama’s first chief of staff.

Trudeau is expected to use the meetings to remind U.S. lawmakers of the importance of NAFTA at a critical point in the re-negotiation process.

The sixth round of NAFTA talks ended in Montreal last month with all sides agreeing that progress has been slow.

Since then, new signs of hope have emerged that suggest a deal may be possible.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told an audience in Ottawa on Monday that he’s pressuring negotiators to wrap up discussions in the next two months.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told a U.S. House of Representatives committee that he believes a deal could be reached by December.

‘Go north’

Trudeau will shift his focus to the tech sector on Thursday as he heads to San Francisco, where he will meet with Bezos. But he also will sit down with other influential business leaders, including the CEOs of online shopping giant eBay and pharmaceutical developer Amgen.

The tech sector leg of the visit wraps up with a dinner at the Business Council to discuss new investment opportunities in Canada.

Trudeau’s pitch likely will include the fact that Canada has joined the new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP). The U.S. did not sign on to the pact, which also includes Japan and Australia.

“I think this might be of interest to some American exporters,” said Michael Kergin, Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S. “They can use some subsidiaries in Canada to work through the Asian markets as well.”

Kergin also said the business tax cuts introduced by U.S. President Donald Trump last month won’t necessarily hurt Trudeau’s pitch to the high tech sector.

“Knowing where you can get good markets and good people to work with you … I think is more important than the tax issue,” he said.

Trudeau also may look to urge Canadians working in tech industries in the U.S. to start coming home.

“There’s a ‘Go north’ campaign on right now,” Robertson said. “All the bright young engineers from Sheridan College that worked at Pixar … and from Waterloo that went down to Silicon Valley. If we can bring some of them back … that would be great for Canada.”

While in San Francisco, Trudeau will meet with more lawmakers, including California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Trudeau ends his trip with two days in Los Angeles. While there, he will deliver a second keynote address — this time to a primarily Republican audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Centre for Public Affairs.

Trudeau's U.S. tour

The prime minister is set to meet with some of the most influential leaders in the tech industry as he launches a four day trade and investment mission to the U.S. (Rob Easton/CBC)

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Trudeau to DC and Mexico

Trade troubles face Trudeau on trip to Washington and Mexico City

NAFTA tensions, Bombardier spat pose challenges for PM on 4-day visit to U.S. and Mexico

By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: Oct 10, 2017 5:00 AM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump take part in a joint press conference at the White House in February. Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, security issues and NATO with Trump during his stay in Washington.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump take part in a joint press conference at the White House in February. Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, security issues and NATO with Trump during his stay in Washington. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Katie Simpson is a senior reporter in the Parliamentary Bureau of CBC News. Prior to joining the CBC, she spent nearly a decade in Toronto covering local and provincial issues.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to talk trade, security and gender equality during his four-day trip to the United States and Mexico that begins Tuesday. But there is little doubt one of those subjects will get more attention than the others.

Trudeau is facing multiple trade-related challenges with both countries.

Talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have slowed and soured, with the mood expected to get worse, and Canada is frustrated by the U.S. decision to slap 300 per cent duties on Bombardier’s CSeries planes.

The softwood lumber dispute has also not yet been settled.

Trudeau arrived in the Washington area late Tuesday afternoon. He will also take questions during a keynote address at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit in the evening.

Cultivating relationships

Trudeau will shift gears early Wednesday when he visits the congressional ways and means committee on Capitol Hill — an opportunity to share his message about the importance of Canada/U.S. trade with influential lawmakers.

On the eve of talks, U.S. President Donald Trump continued to threaten the viability of the deal, this time to Forbes.

“I happen to think that NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good. Otherwise, I believe you can’t negotiate a good deal… . [The Trans-Pacific Partnership] would have been a large-scale version of NAFTA. It would have been a disaster,” he said in an article published Monday.

“I consider that a great accomplishment, stopping that. And there are many people that agree with me. I like bilateral deals.”

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‘What would be terrible is completely going backwards and pulling out of this agreement’
00:00 07:01

‘What would be terrible is completely going backwards and pulling out of this agreement’7:01

Despite the president’s renewed threats, Congress has some power to intervene.

“Congress is potentially our shield against an administration which is the most protectionist that we’ve seen,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

Robertson thinks it is smart for Trudeau to ramp up his so-called charm offensive with U.S. politicians outside of the White House. 

“This is something he will have to continue to cultivate,” Robertson added.

Face time with Trump

But the most anticipated moment of the trip will be Trudeau’s face-to-face meeting with Trump.

The pair have developed a positive rapport, according to a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, and are looking to further develop that relationship.

But their meeting takes place at the same time the fourth round of NAFTA talks begin, also in Washington. The PMO confirmed Tuesday those talks have already been extended so ministers from Canada, the United States and Mexico could all attend a meeting next Tuesday.

There is little positivity left at the negotiating table, especially as the U.S. is expected to make its most contentious demands during this round of discussions.

“I think they [the talks] are going poorly, they’re having difficulty even nailing down the low-hanging fruit,” said Jerry Dias, president of Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor.

Trudeau G20 Germany 20170708

Trudeau and Trump speak at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

U.S. proposals on the rules for automobile content, dispute resolution and the dairy industry are expected to be unveiled this week. The U.S. has already been accused of making demands that neither Canada nor Mexico would ever agree to.

The PMO spokesman said Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, but noted that the real work is being done by negotiators behind the scenes.

Trudeau also plans to bring up Canada’s frustration with the U.S. Department of Commerce over the Bombardier duties.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been outspoken on this issue, calling the duties “baseless and absurdly high.”

Trudeau also plans to discuss security with Trump, integrated operations and NATO, according to the spokesman.

Freeland and her parliamentary secretary on Canada-U.S. relations, Andrew Leslie, will accompany Trudeau to Washington.

Trudeau Apec 20161119

Trudeau will move on to Mexico City Thursday for a meeting and state dinner with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Both face increasing pressures from the Trump Administration when it comes to NAFTA. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Meetings in Mexico

Trudeau will round out his North American tour with a stop in Mexico City.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has a full day of meetings planned with Trudeau and, again, trade will likely be the key point of discussion; so much so that International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will join Trudeau and Freeland for this leg of the trip.

Canada and Mexico hold wildly different positions on several aspects of NAFTA, most notably labour standards.

But the prime minister’s spokesman says other issues will come up, including gender equality.

Trudeau is also expected to take some time to visit some of the regions hard hit by two earthquakes that struck this past summer.

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G20 Summit in Hamburg

CBC Commentary on G20 http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/987012163968

A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7-8, 2017

G20_hamburg_Montages.jpg

Image credit: Germany G20 Website

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
July, 2017

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Table of Contents


Introduction

This Thursday and Friday, the leaders of the major economic nations, their finance ministers and central bankers meet in Germany’s northern port city of Hamburg,

birthplace of their host, Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s their 12th summit to discuss global economic and financial issues.

The summit cannot ignore geopolitics. Conflict continues in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Central Africa. Renewed famine ravages the Horn of Africa. Russia still occupies parts of Ukraine. China is using its muscle to push its claims to the South China Sea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un improves his nuclear weaponry. Refugees from Africa and the Middle East continue to stream into Europe.

Yet, on the economic front the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (April 2017) projects a pick-up in global economic activity with a long-anticipated cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing and trade. But in Europe, there are uncertainties posed by Brexit and continuing joblessness, especially youth unemployment in southern Europe. Protectionism continues to threaten, most vocally from President Donald Trump, who has also withdrawn the U.S. from the global climate accord.

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Who and What is the G20?

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crisis with Canada’s then-Finance minister Paul Martin playing a lead role. It was raised to the leaders’ level in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when then-U.S. president George W. Bush convened a summit in Washington (November 2008) to address the crisis. Canada hosted the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

The leaders’ summit is the culmination of a year-long process of meetings that in addition to the central bankers, finance ministers and sherpas, includes sessions involving labour, business, think tanks, youth, girls (Belinda Stronach was a driving force behind the Girls20 summit) and civil society.

The member countries include the G7 nations: Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. With two-thirds of the world’s population, their economies account for approximately 80 per cent of world trade and global production.

The heads of the IMF and World Bank participate, as do the heads of the European Union and European Commission and the head of the European Central Bank. Other national leaders are invited to discuss specific topics such as development.

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The G20’s Standing Agenda

The G20 has developed a de facto standing agenda.

First, the multilateral trading system. Expect words from leaders but there is no sense the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha round will soon be concluded. Today, movement on multilateral trade rests with efforts to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a series of smaller regional groupings, including the pending Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and a possible Japan-EU free trade agreement.

Second, resistance to protectionism. Global Trade Alert reports that, notwithstanding the G20 pledge for standstill at the London 2010 summit, since 2008 governments have taken 7,815 protectionist measures ranging from local content requirements to discriminatory regulatory practices.

The G20 nations account for 65 per cent of protectionist measures but the good news is that there has been a sharp decline in such measures in 2016-17. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urged G20 nations to “continue improving the global trading environment, including by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this year.”

Third, promoting international investment. Barriers to investment continue to plague G20 economies. Governments need to further open their economies.

Fourth, achieving sustainable fiscal policy. This means saving in good times so you can spend in recession and then get back to balance as quickly as possible.

Fifth, supporting sustainable development. With the conclusion of the Millennium Development plan in 2016, nations are now committed to 17 goals in the new UN Sustainable Development Agenda to be achieved by 2030, including no poverty, gender equality, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, decent work and economic growth.

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What does the Hamburg summit want to achieve?

Merkel has set out her priorities. Leaders must address three questions:

  • How can we co-operate better in the future for the sake of our citizens?
  • What fears and challenges are associated with globalization, and what can we do to address these?
  • How can we safeguard inclusiveness and ensure that the fruits of prosperity and growth are distributed fairly?

In addition to the economic challenges, Merkel calls for a broad-based civil society dialogue on digitalization, effective climate protection policy and global health crisis management.

Build resilience, improve sustainability, assume responsibility – the leaders are expected to act on these three aims to:

  • Strengthen economic resilience
  • Strengthen the international financial architecture
  • Further develop financial markets
  • Make taxation fair and reliable internationally
  • Deepen co-operation on trade and investment
  • Protect the climate and advancing sustainable energy supply
  • Implement the 2030 agenda
  • Seize opportunities of digital technology
  • Promote health
  • Empower women
  • Address displacement and migration
  • Intensify partnership with Africa
  • Combat terrorist financing and money laundering
  • Fight corruption
  • Improve food security

These items are all likely to be reflected in the communique, no matter how wishy-washy the language.

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What about deliverables from Hamburg?

Don’t expect a lot.

Perhaps the most we can expect is agreement to address inequalities, at home and abroad, in the face of the continuing domestic populist movements.

Merkel, with support from new French President Emmanuel Macron, wants further climate action. The German environment department has published a fact check on Trump’s climate statements. Trump is not likely to support further action and, by tradition, G20 decisions are made by consensus.

Trump promises to be the wild card at the summit, having already clashed with his fellow leaders at the NATO and G7 summits earlier this year over defence spending, trade, climate and refugee policy. Unhappy with foreign steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now considering raising tariffs on all imported steel to the alarm of Europe and Canada.

Most of the action will be at the bilateral level. It will be the first meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin and it is reported that Trump wants a set of deliverables to offer to the Russian president. Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Russia and Germany prior to the visit to discuss the new Silk Road and Belt – land and sea trade route – initiative from China through South Asia, Central Asia and then Europe. EU and Japan trade negotiators are working to conclude free trade negotiations in time for the summit. The German decision to block a rally of Turkish citizens working in Germany with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make for an interesting discussion with Merkel. Putin may also be called out over Russian interference in the U.S. and European elections.

As is always the case at these summits, security will be paramount with an estimated 20,000 police with dogs, horses and helicopters and 7.8 kilometres of steel barriers to prevent disturbances but also to contain the perennial protesters.

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Image credits: Getty Images/Morris MacMatzen

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Canadian Objectives

This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third G20 summit. A contender for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) “hottie” with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto at his first summit (2015), Trudeau is now seen as an experienced leader (third in G7 seniority), a constructive internationalist and someone who is managing well his relationship with Trump.

According to the PMO and Global Affairs releases on the G-20, Mr. Trudeau will “promote inclusive economic growth, progressive international trade, gender equality, action on climate change”, and reiterate Canada’s commitment to working with partners to develop a co-ordinated global response to terrorism while safeguarding human rights.

Trudeau wants to move on CETA. It is delayed from its originally anticipated July 1 provisional implementation because of interpretive disputes around the allocation of Canadian cheese imports and brand-name drugs.

There will be discussions on the TPP with Asian and Latin American partners, and the approaching renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Trump and Peña Nieto.

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Do we really need a G20?

Yes. At a time when globalization, the maintenance of a liberal international order and multilateral co-operation are under question, the G20 is an important forum to discuss, and hopefully advance, common global interests.

The G-20 filled a gap in the architecture of top table meeting places at the UN and G7.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. – represent the world of 1945 and the early Cold War. As we witness with Syria and other crises, getting the Security Council to act constructively is very difficult. Reforming it is an exercise in futility.

The G7 group of leaders – the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada – was created in 1975-76 following the economic crisis that OPEC induced. It is Eurocentric. It doesn’t include China, India or Brazil. Russia joined in 1998 but it was suspended in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea.

The G-20 complements, at the leadership level, the work of the other major financial and economic institutions: the ‘Bretton Woods twins’ – the IMF and World Bank – and the World Trade Organization.

So, the G20 made sense. Like the G7, much of the value of the G20 is in its process.

More people will work on the draft of the final communiqué than will read it but the process of getting there is what really matters. The ongoing meetings between central bankers and finance ministers (the original G20) now include other ministerial meetings as well as regular discussions with business, civil society and think tanks.

What is important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference. Winston Churchill, who popularized the word “summitry”, observed that “jaw-jaw” between leaders is better than “war-war”.

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Further Reading

The best Canadian source for G20 documentation, with a chronology of past summits, is the University of Toronto’s G20 Information Centre, managed by John Kirton.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo does excellent research work on G2O issues, and especially noteworthy are recent reports on refugees, climate change and trade.

The official German site has useful information as does Global Affairs Canada.

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NAFTA Renegotiation

NAFTA GETS NASTY

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

http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/nafta-gets-nasty-1.4091817 00:00 05:29

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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)

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Sunday Scrum: Mixed signals on NAFTA 9:45

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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.

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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.

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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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Trump and Trudeau

Trudeau’s imminent meeting with Trump carries substantial political risk

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Jan 31, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Jan 31, 2017 7:49 AM ET

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to meet as early as this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, a visit intended to underscore the deep economic and security ties between the two countries.

But it also carries substantial political risk.

While the date and location have yet to be confirmed, Canadian sources say the prime minister wants to sit down with Trump as soon as possible to explain the importance of the cross-border trade relationship that’s worth more than $660 billion annually and supports millions of American jobs.

Trump, as anyone who follows the news will know, is a free-trade skeptic. He’s said the Keystone XL pipeline should be built, but only with American steel. He’s made it clear that companies looking to expand or build should do so in the U.S. or face stiff tariffs.

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Trump addresses the ‘Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration’ at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Jan. 19. He and Trudeau have already spoken three times by phone. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

But economics is only one of the course requirements Trudeau needs before his first face-to-face encounter with Trump. National security and values are the other big ones.

The prime minister will have to convince Trump that Canada’s decision to admit 40,000 Syrian refugees doesn’t pose any security risk to the U.S.

That task took on far more importance on the weekend when Trump signed an executive order banning all citizens from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

The decision created chaos for travellers and has been condemned by many around the world. On Saturday, Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”

It was retweeted more than 420,000 times, the kind of activity that might very well have caught the eye of a U.S. president who uses Twitter to take on his critics and make policy announcements.

“The prime minister will have to tread very carefully,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“He has to make it clear that Canada is a reliable ally and important trading partner, but at the same time Canadians will expect him to be the champion for progressive policies.”

The risks

Trump invited Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to Washington this week for separate, bilateral meetings, to be followed by a Three Amigos summit to discuss North American issues.

But the Pena Nieto visit was cancelled after Trump signed an executive order to begin the design and construction of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican government officials tell CBC News they understand Canada will go ahead with its meetings to defend its own interests. Mexican newspapers have been less charitable. “Canada abandons Mexico in NAFTA negotiations” was a headline in El Excelsior.

Officially, the Mexican officials remain hopeful that Canada will continue to stress the importance of NAFTA and Mexico’s role as a partner.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto gestures as he delivers a message about foreign affairs in Mexico City on Jan. 23. He cancelled a visit to Washington after Trump signed an executive order to begin work on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

There’s also a risk of alienating progressive Canadians by meeting with Trump at all.

New Democrats argue Trudeau needs to be much more forceful in denouncing Trump’s travel ban. But Conservative MP Randy Hoback says priority No. 1 is to keep the border open to Canadian goods.

“He should focus on those things that reinforce the partnership.”

In other words, when Trump talks about getting back into coal-fired power generation, Trudeau should talk up Canada’s carbon-sequestration technology.

If Trump wants to talk about border taxes, the prime minister should remind him that 35 states list Canada as their largest trading partner.

Whatever he does, Trudeau is sure to be criticized.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader to meet Trump at the White House, is under considerable pressure to withdraw an invitation to have him visit the U.K. The Independent newspaper reported Monday that a petition calling on the government to cancel the state visit has a million signatures.

US Trump Britain

Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk at the White House on Jan. 27. May invited Trump to visit Britain, but a million petitioners have reportedly asked her to cancel. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal staffer who runs the Ottawa office of Environics Communications, says Trudeau has a duty to meet with Trump even if the president’s statements about women, Mexicans and other groups are so at odds with his own commitment to inclusiveness and equality.

“The prime minister can still stand up for Canadian values,” he says. “But the U.S. is just too important a trading partner, and Trump’s campaign was so heavily focused on jobs and trade, that there’s no other choice.”

The goal

Trudeau and Trump have spoken on the phone three times since the president’s election victory in November, most recently on Monday when Trump called to offer his condolences and support following the shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six and left five others with critical injuries.

Key cabinet ministers like Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Transport Minister Marc Garneau are planning visits to Washington, as soon as their American counterparts are confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to discuss energy and infrastructure priorities and to show how Canadian and American interests in these areas intersect.

And Andrew Leslie, the new parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, who knows a number of Trump’s cabinet ministers from when they were all ranking military officers, has already been several times.

The goal here is to show Trump that Canada is a safe, dependable and valued partner. Even when, as last weekend shows, there are issues on which the two will disagree.

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Joe Biden Visit

Joe Biden drops in for a visit without any gifts: Chris Hall

U.S. vice-president could provide insight about what to expect from next administration

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Dec 08, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Dec 08, 2016 7:57 AM ET

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit. (Jessica Hromas/Reuters)

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He’s just a few weeks away from becoming just another ordinary Joe. But that’s not stopping U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden from making an official visit to Ottawa, where the Canadian government will roll out the red carpet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will play host to Biden at a dinner on Thursday night that’s being billed as an occasion to celebrate the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The next morning, the man who’s been Barack Obama’s No. 2 for the past eight years will meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders who, by happy coincidence, are in the nation’s capital for their own two-day visit with the prime minister to discuss climate change and health care.

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President-elect Donald Trump is getting ready to take over the White House from Barack Obama, which might explain why some files that concern Canada seem to have stalled. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Trudeau on Friday to discuss the “strong partnership” between Canada and the U.S. He’ll then join the first ministers to discuss the state of Canada-U.S. relations as well as other global issues.

But, given the season and all, anyone expecting Biden to come bearing gifts will be disappointed. There’s been no deal brokered in the final days of the Obama administration to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. No new measures to co-ordinate climate change policies. No pipeline approval wrapped up neatly with a bow.

What to expect from Trump

“It’s really a salutary visit intended to make Canadians feel good about the relationship with the U.S.,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. “There’s not much of substance for him to offer when he’s unconnected to the incoming administration of Donald Trump.”

That’s not to dismiss the visit as merely the first stop of a Biden farewell tour. As vice-president, and before that as a two-time chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, he’s well-positioned, as one Canadian diplomat put it, “to showcase the bilateral relationship.” Perhaps most importantly, he can at least explain what Canadian politicians should look for when Trump becomes president next month.

“There are a lot of concerns about the Trump election and what it means for trade and the border,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who’s now a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“As a former longtime senator, Biden can underline that while presidents have a lot of power, the checks and balances inherent in the U.S. system mean that major legislative changes require congressional approval.”

Even though the Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate, that doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will always get his way.

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Some of Trump’s statements and tweets have caused real concern in Canada. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

It all speaks to the ongoing uneasiness caused by what Trump’s been saying (and tweeting) on any number of issues that directly affect Canada, and the growing uncertainty about whether the president-elect actually means what he says.

There’s no shortage of these pronouncements. Trump’s going to scrap NAFTA, withdraw U.S. support for the Paris climate accord, roll back the number of Syrian refugees, tighten the border and end the days when freeloading members of NATO could simply count on American military might.

Dawson would add the near-certainty that Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure pledge will re-insert Buy American provisions that would exclude Canadian manufacturers and producers.

“Canada needs to be vigilant to avoid becoming collateral damage,” she says. “That’s something on which the vice-president can offer some reassurance that the deep ties between the two countries, at the operational and regulatory level, will remain intact.”

Reputation for plain talk

Biden’s own reputation for plain talk and straying from talking points may not rival Trump’s. But it could benefit Canadian politicians who want an unvarnished view of where this critical bilateral relationship is heading. Biden’s the one most likely to deliver it.

The visit even offers an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to contribute their own Joe Biden memes. The collection of captioned photos in which the vice-president concocts all sorts of plans to sabotage Trump’s arrival at the White House has flourished online since the Nov. 8 election. It’s helped burnish what The New Yorker has called Biden’s “singular place in the pop culture of American politics.”

Trudeau, of course, is no slouch as a pop culture icon.

The prime minister’s closeness to Obama is well-documented on both sides of the border. It goes beyond the shared ideologies of Liberal and Democrat to the kind of working relationship between a prime minister and president that, in the past, produced treaties on free trade and acid rain.

It doesn’t seem likely that Trudeau and Trump will forge that bond.

So the Biden visit, at least, reinforces the connection with the outgoing administration, and could help nail down decisions on outstanding issues, such as mutual co-operation in the Arctic and the legislation to expand the number of locations offering customs pre-clearance for U.S.-bound travellers, before Trump sits in the Oval Office.

It’s not much. But these days, it’s all the soon-to-be ordinary Joe really has to offer.

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Trump: the morning after

The American people have made their decision but what does that mean for Canada?
Nov 9, 2016

http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/ottawa-morning/segment

Canada/U.S. relations under Trump  CBC National 

Air Date: Nov 09, 2016 9:33 PM ET

Canada/U.S. relations under Trump2:21

The two countries are close partners. Is a Trump presidency going to strain that?

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Congress and the US Election

Forget Clinton and Trump — it’s Congress that matters most to some Canadians

A border deal, a trade deal, climate change co-operation all hang on partisan makeup of next Congress

By Matt Kwong, CBC News Posted: Nov 07, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Nov 07, 2016 6:59 AM ET

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan speaks to the assembled House after being elected as the new Speaker in Washington in October 2015.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan speaks to the assembled House after being elected as the new Speaker in Washington in October 2015. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Repeal this, legislate that, nominate them.

U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump can make all the campaign promises they want, but they won’t be able to accomplish much without Congress.

While the fight for the White House gets all the sizzle in this fiery election season, Canadian interests are also watching the down-ballot races as our superpower neighbour to the south — our biggest trading partner  — shuffles seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives. More than 400,000 people flow back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border each day.

At stake for Canada? Anything from trade pacts to ease of cross-border travel, taxes on goods, a potentially lucrative project for Hydro-Québec and climate change co-operation.

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Traffic makes its way from Windsor, Ont., to the Ambassador Bridge that connects Canada to the United States. In the dwindling days of the current Congress, a border pre-clearance agreement has stalled. (Mark Spowart/Canadian Press)

Whoever takes over the Oval Office, just as important to Canadians will be what the partisan composition is in the U.S. chambers.

“It’s what I’ve been telling Canadians for a long time,” says Maryscott Greenwood, senior advisor with the non-partisan Canadian American Business Council. “I know everybody’s obsessed with Trump-Clinton, but really, let’s also think about the Congress.”

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, notes that as a general principle, “Democrats are less sympathetic on trade and bring in more Buy America legislation.” But both Clinton and Trump have offered protectionist views on trade policies.

Either way, it’s a moot point “because you work with whoever’s there,” he says.

How Congress approves future judicial appointments will matter because the U.S. Supreme Court, while not holding jurisdiction in Canada, often makes decisions that are of interest to Canada.

‘How we approach things is so closely linked — because of our economy, our environment — that we tend to move in tandem.’ – Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

“How we approach things is so closely linked — because of our economy, our environment — that we tend to move in tandem,” Robertson says.

While it appears to be an increasingly distant possibility that the Democrats will be able to flip the Lower House to their control — requiring at least 30 seats from the Republicans — a Democratic-majority Senate looks within reach.

Were that to happen, Greenwood notes that the Upper House would have two members from Washington State, Democratic senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, in powerful committee positions.

As for why that matters to Canadian trade policy?

Both senators have played active roles in matters to do with the Port of Seattle, arguing that Canadian ports have unfair advantages over U.S. ports.

The senators have tried to introduce legislation to slap a fee on all containers entering the U.S. via Canadian and Mexican ports.

“A border tax on all cargo,” as Greenwood describes it. “And it hasn’t seen the light of day or been passed in[to] law so far because Murray and Cantwell weren’t senior enough” to be able to broker the kinds of deals they might have coveted.

Apple Dumping

Container ships sit moored at the Port of Seattle, which is in the constituency of two Democratic senators for Washington state who say Canadian ports have an unfair advantage over U.S. ports. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

TPP up in the air

Then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The largest regional trade pact in history includes Canada, the U.S. and 10 other signatories, but if Washington doesn’t want anything to do with it, Canada probably won’t want to either.

“It would be in Canada’s interests not to try navigating the Asian trade pond by itself,” says Geoffrey Hale, a policy expert on U.S.-Canada relations with the University of Lethbridge. “It’s a lot easier to slipstream behind the Americans in these waters than to try to cobble together alliances” with the Pacific Rim countries involved.

Clinton has denounced TPP, which she at one time hailed as a “gold standard” in trade agreements. Trump exhibits a rather un-Republican opposition to free trade, slamming it as “the death blow for American manufacturing.”

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Delegates protesting against the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement hold up signs at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

Obama’s fast-track on TPP was achieved with Republicans in the House and Senate, not within his own party.

Greenwood isn’t betting on the prospect that Obama will be able to push its passage through a lame-duck Congress, believing TPP will instead “wither on the vine.”

Border bill stalled

Likewise on the climate change front, Hale says the likelihood of coherent climate change legislation coming out of Congress in the coming session is slim. Hale says the “modest Democratic majority” projected for the Senate wouldn’t give Clinton much room to manoeuvre.

“The [Canadian] government would be absolutely insane to take a very aggressive, unilateral approach on climate change if the United States was doing absolutely nothing,” Hale says.

A Canada-U.S. border pre-clearance agreement also has been stalled. Passage of the bill, which in Canada received first reading in the House of Commons in June, would expedite commerce and allow pre-cleared travellers to skip long customs lines.

Although the deal has bipartisan support in the U.S., there’s precious time left to pass the law. And once the new session of Congress begins, “you’ve got to get started from go again,” Greenwood says.

Canadian interests are hot topics in local congressional races this year.

In New Hampshire, voters worry about the “Northern Pass,” a $1.7-billion joint proposal from Hydro-Québec and New England’s Eversource to export 1,000 megawatts of hydro power to the northeastern U.S. The controversial 309-kilometre high-transmission line would cut a swath through idyllic New Hampshire landscapes. Republican Senate candidate Dolly McPhaul opposes the plan, which would run through her district, and has focused her campaign on the issue.

In Alaska last month, Senate candidates on public radio debated how B.C. mineral mining upstream was affecting water flowing into southeast Alaska and threatening the state’s fishing industry. Republican senator Lisa Murkowski faced a grilling from independent Margaret Stock on creating an international commission to look into the matter.

Robertson, the former diplomat, notes that when the U.S. election ends, Canada’s wheeling and dealing only just begins.

“We have permanent interests for whoever’s there. We work with whoever we can to find our way in,” he says, adding, “For Canada, it’s a permanent campaign.”

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