Trudeau Government outreach into the USA

Bill Morneau drawing links between anxiety that elected Trudeau, Trump

Morneau, whose most recent U.S. visit took him to New York and Indiana this week, said he’s been telling American political leaders that the same middle-class angst that fuelled Trump’s victory also helped propel the Trudeau government to power.

“As we go out to the United States, we reinforce the importance of jobs — that’s a common factor that we share with Americans,” Morneau said this week in a post-trip interview.“Having secure, well-paying jobs over the long term is the surest antidote to anxiety about the future.”

Morneau’s visit was part of Canada’s ongoing political charm offensive in the U.S., which has been intensifying since Trump took office in January.

Canadian leaders from all levels of government have been travelling stateside and highlighting the economic benefits for both countries of their cross-border business relationship.

It’s prompted by fears north of the border that several U.S. trade and tax proposals under discussion would, if implemented, have significant economic impacts in Canada.

Morneau said he recently met with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, and they discussed the similarities between conditions in their respective countries.

Earlier this week, he told a World Economic Forum event in New York that he made a point of telling his U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the same thing when they spoke last month at a G20 meeting in Germany.

“We talked about the challenges that fuelled our election in Canada and the challenges that fuelled the new administration in the United States — and the very real sense that we both need to strengthen the middle class in our countries,” he said.

The Trudeau government is trying to show Americans that their Canadian counterparts share many of the same fears and challenges as Trump supporters, said Christopher Sands, a U.S.-based political science professor and Canada-watcher.

“Politically, it’s smart. Don’t treat Trump as crazy or impossible, but try to find a way to seem as normal and as comfortable with him as possible and he’ll be the same with you,” said Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The most recent national elections in both countries came as middle-income workers were feeling squeezed, said Sands. But Canada didn’t see the same kind of “populist, nationalist, frustration with the establishment” present in the U.S., he noted.

Colin Robertson, a retired Canadian diplomat with extensive U.S. experience, said Morneau’s approach suggests the Trudeau government continues to seek “convergent points” with the Trump administration and with state governments.

“I think that’s probably wise,” said Robertson, who noted that while the two governments’ approaches on issues like refugees and climate are different, they have shared interests in achieving growth.

Many Trudeau cabinet ministers have been asked to focus some of their outreach efforts on key states with strong economic relationships with Canada.

Morneau has been asked to pay close attention to Indiana, in addition to his finance minister’s roles in the U.S. capital and New York.

His office sent out a release this week saying that Canada is Indiana’s top customer. It also said nearly 190,000 jobs in the state are directly connected to trade and investment with Canada.

Indiana’s importance runs even deeper because it’s the home state of U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, the former governor.

“I found that the relationship with Vice-President Pence started off on a very strong footing when we were in the White House,” Morneau said.

“He’s very interested and because of his background in a state like Indiana, which has such a strong relationship with Canada. He already has a good starting point in understanding how important the relationship is.”

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Trudeau Visit

Obama on growing friendship with Trudeau: “What’s not to like?”

Reuters

U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau laugh as they meet in the Oval Office following an official arrival ceremony for Trudeau at the White House in Washington

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laugh as they meet in the …By David Ljunggren

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Thursday turned the page on years of shaky ties with Canada by staging a lavish White House welcome for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, making clear the new leader is a man after his own heart.

Trudeau, 44, the left-leaning Liberal Party leader and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, took power last November. He already enjoys a closer bond with the Democratic president than his right-of-center predecessor, Stephen Harper of the Conservatives, managed in more than six years of dealing with the Obama administration.

“He campaigned on a message of hope and of change. His positive and optimistic vision is inspiring young people,” Obama said after meeting with Trudeau in the Oval Office.

“So, from my perspective, what’s not to like?” he added, also noting Trudeau’s commitment to the environment.

Keeping good relations with the United States is critical for Canada, which sends 75 percent of its exports to its southern neighbor. Trudeau brought along six Cabinet ministers in a sign of how seriously he took the visit.

Obama struck a warm, informal tone from the start and told Trudeau at a state dinner he “may well be the most popular Canadian named Justin.” Singer Justin Bieber is from Canada.

The White House dinner was the first for a Canadian leader since 1997. Obama never did the same for Harper, who irritated the administration by insisting it approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Obama blocked the project last year.

At an arrival ceremony on Thursday morning, Obama teased Trudeau about the failure in recent years of Canadian hockey teams to win the sport’s top honor.

“Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?” he asked. “I’m sorry. Is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks?”

Trudeau replied there was a high U.S. demand for Canadian exports, including three of the star players who helped the Blackhawks win the National Hockey League championship last year.

In Ottawa, Conservative Party foreign affairs spokesman Tony Clement said Trudeau’s visit had little deeper meaning, given that Obama would out of office in January 2017.

Even so, the next few months could be crucial for Canada, said Colin Robertson of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a former senior diplomat with two U.S. postings.

Encouraged by Obama’s tone, American officials are starting to re-examine important elements of the bilateral relationship in a favorable way, Robertson said.

“The next administration is not going to have Canada on their radar,” he said in a phone interview. “But their reference point when they do … will be this review conducted under the best possible auspices.”

 

CPAC Prime Time Politics host Peter Van Dusen previews the prime minister’s trip to Washington with  Colin Robertson (Canadian Global Affairs Institute), Christopher Sands (Johns Hopkins University).

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Canada-USA Relations under Justin Trudeau

Trudeau Seeks a Beyond-Keystone Reboot to Canada-U.S. Relations
Danielle Bochove Bloomberg  October 22, 2015

Climate policy seen as most likely area for substantive change
First Trudeau must make himself known on trade and ISIS

“It’s more than Keystone,” could well be Justin Trudeau’s mantra on managing Canada’s vital relationship with the U.S.

Even before formally taking office, Prime Minister-elect Trudeau is racing to build a closer relationship with President Barack Obama. He spoke with Obama by telephone on Tuesday and stressed the need for the two countries to work more closely on environmental cooperation and to broaden a bilateral conversation that, under Stephen Harper, was dominated by the controversial pipeline. One of Trudeau’s first tasks may be to send an envoy to Washington to begin aligning positions on climate change, analysts said.

A more immediately amicable relationship could serve multiple objectives for Trudeau: delivering quickly on a key pledge to shore up the country’s international reputation by establishing a common front with the U.S. ahead of climate change negotiations in Paris, and managing the rejection by Obama of the Keystone XL project, which may be announced soon.

“One of the things that has been a challenge within the relationship between Canada and the U.S. is it has in many cases been focused on a single point of disagreement, a single pipeline,” Trudeau said after the Obama call.

Trudeau has made much over the past year of the need to build a closer and more productive cross-border relationship as part of his overall critique of Harper, whom he handily defeated in Monday night’s Canadian election. He promised to end the “hectoring” tone in the relationship and to set up a special cabinet committee “to oversee and manage” issues between the two countries.

The 43-year-old Trudeau will likely have his first official meeting with Obama at the G20 leaders’ summit in Turkey Nov. 15. There, the migrant crisis and Canada’s pledge to end its participation in the aerial portion of the campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq will be front and center. Trudeau has pledged to take in additional refugees and to increase Canada’s efforts in training local ground forces.

A day later, the new prime minister is expected to attend an Asia Pacific meeting in Manila where trade partners will want him to bring greater clarity to his government’s stand on the Trans Pacific trade partnership.

But it’s the Paris Climate Change Conference in December Trudeau has spoken most about, promising to attend with Canada’s provincial premiers. “I indicated to Mr. Obama that I felt that it was important that Canada demonstrates a level of positive engagement on the environmental file on the international stage,” Trudeau said in his first post-election press conference.

Over the past year, Trudeau’s party repeatedly blamed Harper’s aggressive and single-minded pursuit of a single cross-border energy project for a fractious relationship with the White House.

“For the past couple of years we haven’t heard of Canada in the United States except for Keystone. And in the last year, that all just seemed rather silly, quite frankly,” Stephen Blank, a long-time U.S. scholar on Canada, said in an interview.

The Canadian side of the world’s biggest trading relationship puts great emphasis on the importance of good inter-personal connections at the top. “There’s more than just structural issues involved, there’s personalities,” said Bill Graham, a former Liberal foreign and defense minister. Referring to Harper and Obama, he said: “I don’t think their relationship was in any way either warm or productive and I don’t think that was helpful to Canada.”

It is, of course, always easier for Democrats to get along with Liberals, and Republicans with Conservatives, but Trudeau seems to have taken aboard the advice of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a Conservative, that it is the responsibility of any Canadian leader to develop a good working relationship with whoever is U.S. president.

Trudeau’s first move in that direction should be to initiate a substantive conversation with the White House on environmental policy before Paris, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and now vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Given the tight time line, he thinks it likely Trudeau will send a high-level emissary to Washington to begin aligning the country’s positions; senior Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts, the former President of the World Wildlife Federation-Canada, would be the obvious choice, he said.

Disagreement exists as to whether there’s time left to do much business with Obama. Blank feels any progress made on climate will be “toxic” to the next Republican-dominated House and could prove ephemeral. Others, including Christopher Sands, Director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, argue that the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988, the last year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. “Conventional wisdom for Canadian diplomats is the last year of an administration is not a bad time to push,” Sands said.

Allan Gottlieb, who headed up Canada’s foreign service for the elder Trudeau and then served as U.S. ambassador in Washington under Mulroney, said he came to appreciate the importance of the close personal ties while watching Ronald Reagan cut through blockages at Mulroney’s urging.

For many analysts, Trudeau’s stated intent to expand North American ties, including with Mexico, and develop a continent-wide climate policy has the potential to define his government. Gottlieb is fond of quoting former French president Charles de Gaulle that “to be a great leader, you need only have one idea.” Trudeau’s father’s one great idea, Gottlieb said, was making his vision of a strong federalist nation, thrust upon him by the potential break-up of Canada, a cornerstone of his international relations.

“It’s the times that give the opportunity for greatness to arise,” he said. While it remains to be seen if Justin Trudeau’s “one idea” will emanate from his embrace of environmental concerns, “it would be a great mistake to underestimate him.”

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