Trade Relations with Trump’s America

Trade dynamics haven’t changed despite Trump: expert

By: Martin Cash Winnipeg Free Press

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Senior trade expert and former diplomat Colin Robertson talks about U.S. trade issues to a crowd at the Canad Inns Polo Park. Event organized by the World Trade Centre Winnipeg. Feb. 28, 2017 170228</p>
BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSSenior trade expert and former diplomat Colin Robertson talks about U.S. trade issues to a crowd at the Canad Inns Polo Park. Event organized by the World Trade Centre Winnipeg. Feb. 28, 2017 170228

If anyone knows the best strategies for Canadians doing business with the U.S., it’s Colin Robertson.

For 33 years, the former Winnipegger worked in the Canadian Foreign Service, mostly as a trade specialist and mostly in the United States.

He was a member of the team that negotiated the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

His final assignment before he retired in 2010 was to direct a project at Carleton University’s Centre for Trade Policy and Law on Canada-U.S. engagement.

Speaking Tuesday at a World Trade Centre Winnipeg half-day conference on doing business with the U.S., Robertson downplayed the need for Canadians to alter their approach to the U.S. market in light of the new protectionist, nationalistic postures of the Trump administration.

“It is remarkable what is taking place,” he said. “But trade dynamics have not changed. What has changed is the atmosphere in which we conduct trade.”

He said there may be tougher border inspections, but he said Canadian business will not have the same kind of scrutiny U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apply at the Mexican border. (He said they refer to the Mexican border as the Russian front and the Canadian border as the Western Front.)

Robertson may know all sorts of technical details about how trade deals were negotiated, but he had some pretty useful, down-to-earth advice about how Canadians can achieve success in the U.S.

“We have to start from a perspective that we need them more than they need us,” he said, noting 77 per cent of Canadian exports go to the U.S., and only 17 per cent of U.S. exports are sent to Canada.

After so many years observing the more aggressive capitalist sensitivities of the Americans compared with a more conciliatory Canadian style, Robertson was clear Canadians need to be more persistent.

“We need to get in the face of America, play by American rules,” he said.

When it comes to the Trump era, he said there doesn’t really need to be different strategies of engagement.

“The engagement should be even closer — like the old Italian rule about keeping your friends close and your adversaries even closer,” he said in an interview.

He is a big proponent of repeated and multi-pronged approaches to American contacts, referencing the success former Manitoba premier Gary Doer had in connecting with U.S. state governors, something he parlayed into a successful posting as the Canadian ambassador in Washington, D.C.

One characteristic of the traditional Canadian approach in trade matters with the U.S. Robertson is keen to see change is the predisposition of Canadians to ask of the Americans what they believe they will get rather than what they actually want.

“We should use their language,” he said.

“We used to talk about facilitating trade. The Americans talk about expediting trade. It means the same thing, but we should use their language.”

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Martin Cash.

From Farmscape

Canada: A Fair Trader and Reliable Ally
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for March 1, 2017

The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute suggests the key messages Canada needs to deliver to the United States is that Canada is a fair trader and that Canada is a reliable ally.
Canada U.S. Trade under the Donald Trump administration was discussed yesterday as part of the “What’s in it for U.S. Eh” seminar hosted by the World Trade Centre Winnipeg.
Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the U.S. President’s stand on trade, including his pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, has important implications for Canada.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
I think it’s vey important that we deliver two messages.
The first message is that we are a fair trading partner.
I underline the word fair because that is the language that Mr. Trump is using.
He’s arguing that he will do fair trading deals with the world but it has to be fair and I think we are a fair trading partner.
Our trade is almost in balance.
We have a slight surplus, largely on the back of the oil exports we provide which fuels of course the American manufacturing renaissance Mr. Trump wants to create so, you take out energy, then the Americans have a surplus so I think on that issue it is important that we underline that.
The second important message that we deliver to the United States is that we are a reliable ally.
That is something Mr. Trump has also, as have most American presidents, talked about the allies not doing enough in terms of paying their way in the alliance and we need to do more.
I think the defense programs review , which is on right now, you will see an increase in Canadian defense spending, not to appease the United States but for our own interest.
The world is a more dangerous place.
There is a need for Canada for our own reasons to pay more attention to North American security and our contribution to the collective security, which is arguably a Canadian creation as well, the NATO idea that countries work together in alliance.
That is something I think you’re going to see a shift in the government.

Robertson suggests we had reaped all the benefits of NAFTA within a decade and, while its renegotiation represents a challenge, it also offers an opportunity for Canada.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

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