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

http://www.farmscape.com/f2ShowScript.aspx?i=25911&q=Canada%3A+A+Fair+Trader+and+Reliable+Ally

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Negotiating with Mr. Trump

On Canada-U.S. relations, a delicate balance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Peterborough, Ont. Friday January 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Peterborough, Ont. Friday January 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

We may be getting closer and closer to that first meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump. Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson joins us to discuss what Trump wants from NAFTA renegotiations, and how Trudeau has to walk a fine line with any criticism of an unpredictable president.


http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/macleans-on-the-hill-electoral-reform-mosque-shooting/

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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.

USA-TRUMP/INAUGURATION

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.

USA-TRADE/NAFTA-MEXICO

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.

USA-ELECTION/OBAMA-TRUMP

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.

USA-TRUMP/

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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NAFTA , Trump and Trade

Trump wants to overhaul NAFTA? Bring it on

Colin Robertson

The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2016

President-elect Trump wants to “renegotiate” NAFTA. Bring it on.

The gains we made from NAFTA (1993), spectacular during its first decade, have mostly plateaued. The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement would have updated our continental accord but now that Mr. Trump has shelved it, re-opening NAFTA makes sense.

For Canada, a North American economic pact is vital. The U.S., our biggest trading partner since the Second World War, currently accounts for about 75 per cent of our trade. Our trade with Mexico has grown sixfold since NAFTA.

For Canada, our main objective in re-opening NAFTA should be the freer movement of people, goods and investment within North America. Last year more than $700-billion in goods flowed across our southern frontier and more than 150 million people crossed our shared border by land, air and water.

As with any negotiation, to get we have to be prepared to give. Let’s be bold. Let’s put our costly dairy supply-management, a perennial U.S. target, on the table in return for better procurement access, including shipbuilding.

Last week’s Auditor General’s report on the Beyond-the-Border Action Plan – the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at improving border access – identified shortcomings that should be Canadian priorities with U.S. negotiators. The Entry/Exit and trusted traveller programs, including customs self-assessment and the Single Window initiative, are all behind schedule. Some of this is our responsibility but we also need to see more openness to change from the U.S.

Despite recent efforts at regulatory reform, our supply chains still suffer from the “tyranny of small differences.” Regulatory reform could benefit from a Trump re-boot.

The provinces, who were not in the room for the NAFTA negotiation, should be full partners in the coming sessions because many of the necessary improvements fall under their jurisdiction. The premiers should reach out to their governor counterparts with specific proposals around reciprocity for procurement, especially given Mr. Trump’s promised “Big Build” program.

The North American advantage is our people and a new trade accord should include:

  • Bringing the list of professions eligible for fast-track cross-border access into the digital age. The skilled trades workers who are enabling North American energy independence also need to move back and forth with ease.
  • Speeding up the re-qualification system for professionals needed on the job now.

Mr. Trump wants a better deal for American workers.

Main Street America never appreciated the value of NAFTA in part because U.S. leaders did a lousy job in explaining – and sharing – the value of continental trade while failing to adequately help those left behind through global competition and technological changes.

We did it better in Canada but an overhaul of the NAFTA accord on Labour Cooperation is in the interests of all three countries. Why not make a joint commitment to adjustment assistance and retraining as a basic right for workers?

Mr. Trump’s promise to build a wall and to increase deportations to Mexico has led some to wonder whether we’d be better to go it alone with the U.S. leaving Mexico to fend for itself. Divide and conquer is integral to Mr. Trump’s Art of the Deal. Working with Mexico will avoid that trap.

Mexico is now our third largest trading partner. We have major investments in Mexico and, with a middle class of 44 million people, Mexico is a market that will only increase. By 2050, Mexico is expected to rank fifth in global economic weight.

Mr. Trump wants another look at country-of-origin-labelling (COOL), a protectionist measure that curtailed our meat exports. Working closely with Mexico, our joint efforts resulted in Congress repealing COOL last December.

On COOL and those many issues where Canada and Mexico share common cause – including trade, climate and energy – we need to continue working together. On the border and security, we will diverge at times, reflecting our own interests but we should work in tandem. Our shared and overriding principle with Mexico should be no surprises and constant communication at all levels.

Re-opening a deal that is past its best-before date is an opportunity that all three nations should embrace. It’s time to bring NAFTA into the digital age.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

NEW PODCAST: ‘THE GLOBAL EXCHANGE’
NAFTA and Trump: a Discussion on the Future of Trade

On today’s ‘Global Exchange‘ Podcast, we invited two experts on trade to discuss the implications of a Trump Presidency for NAFTA, TPP, and the status-quo trade regime as it stands today. Join Colin, John Weekes, and Rob Wright as they probe the future of trade in an era of rising populism and protectionism.

Bios:

  • Colin Robertson (host) A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP.
  • Rob Wright – Rob Wright served as Canadian Ambassador to China from 2005-2009, and as Ambassador to Japan from 2001-2005. From 1995-2001 he was the Canadian Deputy Minister for International Trade.
  • John Weekes – Canada’s ambassador to the WTO from 1995-99 and a chief negotiator of the NAFTA trade agreement.


Related Links:

 

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The 8-11 Effect: Get the Border Right

 

Why it’s so important for Trudeau to fix the Canada-U.S. border

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2016

Call it the 9/11 effect. Fifteen years on we are still paying the price of that tragic day. It changed how we trade. Tourism to Canada by Americans has never recovered. It also altered, probably permanently, the easy trust that characterized what was once the “longest undefended border.”

The trade effect with the United States is the most evident. A smart and secure border must be the Trudeau government’s priority with the next administration.

Notwithstanding a series of initiatives – Smart Border, Security and Prosperity, and now Beyond the Border, the border has thickened. While rail shipments have increased, especially for oil in the absence of new pipelines, trucks remain the primary mode of cross-border transport although truck traffic is down almost 20 per cent since 9/11.

A study by Statistics Canada (2015) concluded that the premium paid to move goods across the border rose, from 0.3 per cent of the value of goods shipped prior to 9/11, to about 0.6 per cent after 9/11 because of inspection and a surge in paperwork required for passage.

Verification programs for “secured” carriers and goods and regulatory co-operation have mitigated border delays. But we are still awaiting the promised single electronic portal that will satisfy the information requirements of governments and their agencies.

The Nexus card, held by over one million Canadians, has become the fast pass with special lanes at the land border and at airports. It is smart security. Finding the baddies is like looking for a needle in a haystack. You shrink the size of the haystack through advance screening.

The “trusted traveller” formula is now being applied to employers because so much of our trade is intrafirm, including servicing, or moving goods as part of supply chain manufacturing, especially in the auto industry.

We still have work to do.

Both the U.S. Congress and our Parliament have yet to pass the enabling legislation for preclearance, benefiting travellers at Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage airports and those travelling south by train from Montreal and Vancouver. We also need to implement the long-promised Entry/Exit system that will give us an accurate portrait of who is coming and going within North America.

Tourism from the U.S. has not recovered: it is just over half of what it was in 2000.

We need to do a lot more to aggressively promote travel to Canada in the U.S., starting with the estimated 38 million Americans living within a two hour drive of the border. We are safe, we are close, and the U.S. dollar enjoys a 30-cent premium.

Part of the problem is the requirement for a passport. Only 38 per cent of Americans, compared to 70 per cent of Canadians, hold passports. Provincial governments should work with border states to make the smart drivers licenses, that also allow land border transit, the default option.

Canadians, meanwhile, continue to flock south. We spend over 238 million nights a year in the U.S.: over 8 million nights in Las Vegas and 91 million nights in Florida. And even with our drooping loonie, it is estimated that this year Canadians will spend $20.5-billion in the U.S., with Americans spending $9.5-billion in Canada.

The trust issue requires constant effort by Canadian leadership.

The 9/11 Commission worried about lax Canadian immigration standards. This was fixed by the Harper government. But still there is suspicion that Canada is the broken back door. In February, the Senate Homeland Security committee held hearings on Canada’s decision to take in the Syrian refugees to be sure we were not taking any “shortcuts.”

Americans feel more vulnerable, ranking terrorism second only to the economy and ahead of health care, according to a recent Pew survey.

Even while President Barack Obama was making his first official trip to Canada in February, 2009, drones began patrolling our shared border. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker mused last year, while seeking the Republican nomination, about building a wall with Canada. A subsequent Bloomberg poll revealed that 41 per cent of Americans agreed with this idea.

The 9/11 effect has changed how Americans view the world and manage their borders. There is still too much emphasis on enforcement and not enough on expediting legitimate travel. If we have learned anything from 9/11 it is that the answer is not more guns, guards and gates but rather smart screening and risk management.

In our daily dealings with the U.S. we need to remind them that our shared economic prosperity is predicated on the ability to trade goods and services. But because Americans put a premium on security, Canadians need to constantly reassure them and visibly demonstrate that we have their back.

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Canada and China

Canada’s negotiating position in China

BNN interviews Colin Robertson on what can be accomplished during Trudeau’s first official visit to China.

http://www.bnn.ca/video/canada-s-negotiating-position-in-china~941042

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Trump, Clinton and Canadian Trade

 

What Canada needs to do as Trump, Clinton talk trade

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016.

Even when we are not the target, Canada is often collaterally damaged by U.S. trade action. In preparing for the next U.S. administration, our federal and provincial governments should be recalibrating their own economic policies.

The Trudeau government is mapping out the various scenarios depending on the election outcome. We need to closely examine the areas for collaboration and conflict in the policy platforms of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Our place in continental supply chains should benefit from the reinvigoration of U.S. manufacturing promised by both candidates. Adoption of the Trump corporate tax rates would oblige us to re-examine our own regime. There is more opportunity in the Clinton plan for collaboration in green energy, research, and infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile Ambassador David MacNaughton and our U.S. envoys are reaching out to Americans to stress the value of the relationship to Canada, especially in terms of jobs and investment. This exercise should be co-ordinated with the provinces and business.

But we need to do more.

It should start with a doubling-down on trade liberalization at home and abroad.

Our sesquicentennial present to ourselves should be to finally tear down interprovincial trade barriers. The premiers made progress at their recent Whitehorse meeting, but they now need to deliver on their promised Canadian free-trade agreement.

A recent Senate report estimates the annual cost of interprovincial trade barriers is $130-billion. Last month, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia agreed to co-ordinate online wine sales, but as the Senate report observed, it’s only a modest step. The top 10 barriers cited by the Senate, which include trucking, food (notably cheese, wine and beer) and varying standards, should be the starting point for provincial action.

Internationally, we need to ratify the Canada-Europe trade agreement (CETA) as soon as possible and then launch an ambitious trade promotion exercise, led by the Prime Minister and premiers, to take advantage of the deal. Our European missions should already be identifying the trade opportunities of an agreement and, working with the provinces and business, matching the new opportunities against Canadian products and services.

A Canada-China free-trade agreement is in the cards. We should approach this carefully. What lessons can we learn, for example, from the experience of the New Zealand and Australian free-trade agreements with China?

Better prospects are closer economic ties starting with Japan and Mexico, and they should be top of our list if Ottawa or the U.S. Congress fails to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

We can resume the economic partnership negotiations with Japan. And we should be working more closely with Mexico in our continuing advocacy efforts, reminding Americans why our continental economic partnership creates jobs and growth for all of us. Mexican ministers are regularly visiting U.S. states to point out the jobs created by trade with Mexico. We should do the same.

Through the TPP we have already effectively negotiated trade agreements with many ASEAN and Pacific Alliance nations. We should quickly turn these into regional agreements. There are continuing economic partnership negotiations with India. While difficult and frustrating, we need to keep plugging away.

Of the Trudeau Government’s many policy reviews, the recommendations of the Barton committee on Economic Growth could potentially shape our economic future in a fashion similar to the Macdonald Commission on Economic Union. Their policy deliberations should include advice on:

getting the most out of trade liberalization, especially in ensuring that the negotiated trade policy gains become realizable results for business. Can we do more with the Export Development Corporation and Canadian Commercial Corporation?;
managing foreign investment to our advantage, including its place in our planned big infrastructure transportation projects designed to get our goods to market;
in developing global champions in our oil and gas, mining and agri-food sectors, what kinds of incentives and performance measures will work?;
how to more closely align and co-ordinate government-funded research and its practical application? Genome Canada is an effective model;
how higher education can better contribute to skills and training. Shouldn’t we be revaluing our community colleges and putting higher public value on the dignity of our trades?

Both levels of government need to better explain how trade liberalization policies benefit Canadians. They also need to help those affected by change. Governments no longer get a free pass on trust.

The U.S. will always be our main market and our principal trade partner. Our broad economic policy approaches, of necessity, are often complementary, but not the same. And when the U.S. takes a wrong turn, we should not panic, but improve our own game.

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G7 in Japan

Canada and Japan talk trade in lead up to G7 summit

JOHN IBBITSON

The Globe and Mail  Sunday, May 22, 2016 10:05PM EDT

Justin Trudeau arrives in Japan on Monday for a week of talks ending in a G7 summit that is darkened by stalled trade agreements, a rising tide of insurgent populism and the possibility that a President Donald J. Trump could attend next year.

The ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement may not make it through the U.S. Congress; both Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump, the likely Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, spout protectionist rhetoric; Britain votes June 23 in a referendum on whether to leave the European Union (called “Brexit”); and political turmoil in Europe threatens the future of the EU itself.

“The returns on trade have not been translated onto the dining room table,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Coupled with the uncertain recovery from the financial crisis of 2008-09, this has led, he believes, to a growing mood in both the United States and Europe that’s “anti-trade, anti-immigration, anti-big business, anti-establishment.”

Despite this, both Canada and Japan would like to reinvigorate their flagging trading relationship. Japan, once Canada’s second-largest trading partner, is now fifth. The two countries began free-trade negotiations in 2012, but put those talks on hold when they joined the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership talks that included the United States and a raft of Pacific nations.

Now all parties are holding their breath to see whether the U.S. Congress will ratify the TPP, as it’s known, since both Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump say they oppose it. At the same time, populist politicians in both the United States (Mr. Trump on the right and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on the left) and in Europe threaten the existing order.

In Austria’s presidential election on Sunday, the candidate supported by the Greens and the candidate of the extreme right-wing Freedom Party each took half the vote, with no clear winner apparent. Nativist, nationalist, populist parties are on the rise from Poland to France.

“You’ve got an awful lot of unhappy, angry people out there,” noted John Manley, head of the Business Council of Canada. “All they know is that things haven’t gotten better for them and they’re not sure why, but trade is a pretty convenient target.”

Against this backdrop, Mr. Trudeau will be offering a message of hope at the G7: that sustained government spending, such as the Liberals’ 10-year, $120-billion infrastructure plan, can revive both growth and confidence. It’s a 180-degree turn from what Canada was saying under the austerity-minded leadership of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

“I don’t think anything has changed to make the Canadian voice any more or less powerful today,” said Rohinton Medhora, president of the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont. “What matters is what the Germans think in Europe, what the Americans think about these issues.”

But if Canada does not have much influence in the global debate over trade, it does have an enormous stake in the outcome. The Canadian economy depends on trade, so any reversal of the decades-old trend toward ever-freer trade puts Canadian jobs and Canadian prosperity at risk.

Mr. Manley said he believes there could also be opportunities. If the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement fails to be ratified, he is urging Mr. Trudeau to renew trade talks with Japan. “Canada has a rather unique opportunity to be a hub, rather than just one of the spokes,” he said, able to market itself as a conduit to both American and European markets.

All the more reason, Mr. Robertson urges, for Mr. Trudeau and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to hie themselves to Europe sooner rather than later to nail down ratification of the Canada-EU free-trade agreement.

G7 leaders are painfully aware that, should Donald Trump become U.S. president, the global order would be under enormous strain. Not only is Mr. Trump vehemently opposed to the TPP (and to the North American free-trade agreement), he is threatening to launch a trade war with China and has mooted withdrawing the American security umbrella protecting Japan and South Korea.

But Mr. Medhora remains hopeful. If the British vote to stay in Europe and the Americans elect Hillary Clinton, he observes, then the established order will remain largely intact. “A lot depends on what happens with Brexit and the U.S. elections.”

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Trade, Canada and the US Election

Why trade is taking a beating in the U.S. presidential race

Liberalized trade was once American orthodoxy, but in this volatile and unpredictable U.S. presidential campaign things are different: trade is taking a beating.

Where trade was once welcomed by free-market Republicans and union-backing Democrats, economic nationalism has suddenly united both Republicans and Democrats. Why? The trade issue intersects at the four corners of anti-globalization, anti-immigration, anti-Wall Street and anti-Washington.

Both Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders have made criticism of trade deals central to their campaigns, forcing their opponents to play defence or to shift their stand on trade.

That’s why it’s worth watching carefully what happens in today’s primaries, especially in Ohio and Missouri. The takeaway from last week’s Michigan primary was that both Republicans and Democrats believe trade agreements are costing Americans their jobs.

For Canada, the stakes couldn’t be higher. America is our biggest market – and it’s essential that we tell Americans that we are also their biggest customer.

There have been critics of free trade in past presidential elections – Democrat Dick Gephardt, Republican Pat Buchanan, and independents Ross Perot and Ralph Nader all spoke out against trade – but they were crucified as flat earth types by editorialists and economists and ultimately spurned by voters.

Today, editorialists have little influence and the economists are split. Robert Reich, who served as Bill Clinton’s labour secretary, calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the “worst deal you’ve never heard of” and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman says the “elite case for ever-freer trade is largely a scam.”

Why voters think trade favours the ‘elite’

Following a long fight, President Barack Obama got the Trade Promotion Authority (the necessary enabling legislation for an up or down vote on the TPP) through Congress last year with the votes of Republicans. But that support is now heading south. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who served as George W. Bush’s U.S. trade representative is now against the deal. And any congressional vote on the TPP is unlikely until after the November elections.

Most Americans say they know very little about the TPP, an attitude that is shared by most Canadians. The difference is that in the U.S., the more Americans learn about the TPP, the more they oppose it. This is especially true for Republicans.

Concern about trade and the TPP has expanded, Democrat pollster Pat Caddell said last week in Washington, because voters think trade favours the elite, not them. In short, Americans think they are getting “screwed” by their leadership on trade and immigration, says Mr. Caddell. And this backlash against the elites explains, in part, why the GOP establishment candidates are flaming out.

The GOP race is beginning to narrow to a race between two insurgents – Mr. Trump, the populist outsider, and the ideological evangelist Texas Senator Ted Cruz – both of whom are pushing messages around economic anxieties and political alienation. Trade is also the major theme in Mr. Sanders’ campaign and key to his upset victory last week in Michigan over Hillary Clinton. As a result, Mrs. Clinton is now calling for a “trade prosecutor” to enforce other nations’ trade commitments.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, along with Mr. Sanders, are all tapping into this discontent. Mr. Trump says he will “Make America Great Again” while Mr. Sanders promises a “New American Revolution.” If these forces unify behind a presidential candidate, and find a voice in state and local candidates in the November election, Canada could get sideswiped in a wave of nativism and protectionism.

Why Canada needs to speak up

The Trudeau government needs to do two things: explain trade to Canadians – and then remind Americans why our trade serves their interests.

We should also take full advantage of the promise from Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau to try and get a softwood lumber agreement settled in 100 days. Its resolution will only get more difficult when Mr. Obama leaves office. And we need to think about a Plan B should the U.S. not ratify TPP.

The government should use its promised cross-country TPP consultations to explain how Canadians benefit from trade. One in five jobs depends on trade and trade is equivalent to sixty per cent of Canada’s GDP. Training and adjustment for those whose jobs are affected must be part of the equation. Increasingly, trade deals are less about tariffs than regulations. These regulations should expedite trade while raising environmental and labour standards.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the story in Washington last week of the benefits of the Canada-U.S. relationship. Canada is the largest or next largest export market for 45 states. Nine million American jobs depend on trade with Canada.

We need to parse this down to each district then take it to every state legislator and to those who do business with Canada. Our federal, provinical and municipal leaders need to spend more time getting this message out with their American counterparts. We should also make a common cause with Mexico, our North American partner.

Americans need to understand that trade with Canada serves their interests. If Canada fails to deliver that message, the political voices of protectionism and nativism that are now tempting many Americans are likely to win out – leaving Canada as roadkill in the process.

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