NAFTA and the Next Election

The next big federal election agenda item has been set: Trump and trade

By the time Canadians next go to the polls, all the players will be lined up to fight over the biggest trade agreement in a generation

US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 13, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Here we go again. Another federal election that will hinge on free trade.

This is not so much a prediction as it is a simple matter of following the timelines. By 2019, the next federal election, the NAFTA re-negotiations will either be in the dramatic end game or the very contentious ratification phase. The Liberal government will be consumed by the deal, as it already is today. The Conservatives and the NDP will both have new leaders desperate to define themselves by the biggest economic deal of a  generation. What to protect and what to give up? Unions will want a new deal on car manufacturing and will try to stick it to Mexico. Dairy farmers in Quebec will be fighting for supply management. You will hear the phrase “country of label origins” so often it will sound like the name of a band. Softwood lumber, beef, pharmaceuticals—oh, the lawyers are already priapic at the possibilities. We’ll even have the soundtrack of Brian Mulroney singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to Donald Trump. Get ready to negotiate like it’s 1988.

“At the earliest I think the renegotiation—with or without Mexico—will take at least a year, probably 19 months,” says Colin Robertson, the vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former diplomat who implemented NAFTA back in 1993. “After that we have to go for ratification, which adds on another year plus. My guess is that NAFTA, or whatever we call it, doesn’t get wrapped up until spring or summer 2019, meaning it will be front and centre in our October 2019 election.”

READ MORE: A Trump trade war with Mexico would be a disaster for both sides

But wait. Isn’t this all supposed to unfold a lot quicker than that? Didn’t Donald Trump say this was just a matter of a few “tweaks”? How long could that take? Isn’t Trump all chummy with Justin Trudeau over their Women’s Business Council?

If you believe that then you might as well believe your microwave is spying on you. Just listen to the Trump people who are in charge of the NAFTA renegotiation. They are not predicting a trade war with us; they believe they are already in one. We just refuse to believe it.

“We’ve been in a trade war for decades,” new U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg News recently, as he clarified why the U.S. is launching a radical series of trade negotiations that will include a head-on collision with China and ripping up NAFTA. Comparing trade negotiations to war is standard fare for the Trump administration, where hyperbolic, confrontational rhetoric is the vernacular. Turns out the art of the deal is really a euphemism for an eye-gouging brawl.

Ross and Trump are obsessed with the dangers of trade deficits. It is their white whale and they’re likely just as mythical. The fact is, most economists agree that trade deficits are not necessarily bad for the U.S. economy nor do they reflect some camouflaged version of a trade war, as Ross asserts. There are many reasons why the U.S. imports more than it exports, and some of those reasons actually help the economy. But billionaires like Trump and Ross don’t trifle with details. Every minor issue is elevated to its maximum threat level, so a trade imbalance becomes a trade war. That’s why when Trump casually remarked that the coming changes to NAFTA will merely be “tweaks,” he was so off brand. Trumps don’t tweak, they transform—or, at least, they say they will. Ross has now corrected the record. “It’s not going to be a shooting war,” he continued to Bloomberg, as if the bench mark for an acceptable negotiation was merely a lack of bullets. “If people know you have the big bazooka, you probably don’t have to use it.”

So there it is. Either Wilbur Ross has a bazooka in his trade pocket or he’s just really excited to negotiate with Canada. Whatever it is: by his own admission, a trade war is coming. That warning was reiterated this week during the confirmation hearing for Robert Lighthizer, the incoming trade secretary. Both Republicans and Democrats pressed him to crack down on trade with Canada, including digital piracy, counterfeit products and softwood lumber. “I’ve had a variety of issues with respect to Canada that have been raised by senators,” Lighthizer said. “There are a number of things we have to address with respect to Canada.”

None of this is a surprise to Team Trudeau. They have done the pragmatic thing and fanned out across the U.S. this week like the snowstorm Stella itself—blanketing politicians with information about the benefits of an open border and free trade with Canada. To their credit, they have not been lulled into complacency by the purring of the Trump lions. They have set up a special Trump team inside the PMO, shuffled the cabinet to get competent and connected people like Chrystia Freeland and Andrew Leslie in key spots, and taken advice from everyone who can help, from Derek Burney to Brian Mulroney. Conservatives I have spoken to have grudgingly acknowledged that the PM is doing all the right things.

The only person griping is NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who believes that unless Trudeau is out there calling Trump a fascist, he’s nothing more than a quisling. Mulcair can say stuff like this because he’s now in his Easy Rider phase, wildly gunning it down the last miles of his political highway and sticking it to the man. Go man go. He deserved better from his party and if he wants to bring back some hippie anger to the NDP, damn the consequences.

READ MORE: Why Canada—and its economy—has plenty to fear from Trump

For the Prime Minister, though, all things must be put through the political calculator, especially with Canada’s largest trading partner. We don’t get to pick the U.S. President any more than we pick our own parents, so Trudeau’s tactical charm offensive is a legitimate response. This week the Prime Minister is in New York to reinforce the close bond of Canada and the U.S. during 9/11. Last week he was in Texas at an energy conference talking about oil. Meanwhile, other ministers, MPs and premiers are hitting 11 states, from Kentucky to Wisconsin, Indiana to Florida. It’s better to jaw-jaw than war-war, as Winston Churchill liked to say.

The problem is, it might not make much difference. The next election will still be about the trade deal: What was won, what was lost, what concessions were made, what victories were gained. Look at the timeline. The President needs to gives Congress 90 days’ notification in order to kick start the renegotiation of NAFTA, but he can’t rush too much because Wilbur Ross’s team still isn’t in place. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s follow Ross’s “bazooka approach”—the fast-track option—and assume the President gives notice in the next few weeks. Then what?

Here are the blocks of time you have to bake into the process at the bare minimum. Congress needs 180 days’ warning before signing the deal, as the Globe and Mail has reported, and another 105 days for the International Trade Commission to look over the deal and put out a report. Then there is another 6o-day period for amendments. That’s already 435 days, deep into 2018—and that’s if everything goes smoothly.

No serious person thinks it will go smoothly, even if Congress tries to fast-track the timelines. Contentious issues like softwood lumber, automobiles and, wait for it, water, could blow this thing up. The free trade deal with the European Union took years and it was almost derailed by the Walloons. We don’t even know who the U.S. version of the Walloons will be, but in America, Walloons are super-sized, so expect a few hurdles. Just look back at the former trade deals with the U.S. as precedent.

“We finished negotiations of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in October 1987 and then made some more changes in December before signature in January 1988,” says Robertson. “Then we fought an election on it. Then on NAFTA we finished negotiations in early 1993 and put it through the implementing legislation, finishing in June 1993. Then came the October election and we had to do the labour and environmental accords. Clinton only got the U.S. Congress to pass it in November 1993, a year after he was elected and signed in December.”

Talking to Robertson about trade timelines makes a mockery of the idea that there are simple tweaks out there. There aren’t. The first U.S.–Canada Free Trade Agreement took four years. When we brought in Mexico to make it NAFTA, it took another four years. The Trans Pacific Partnership, which Trump just crushed, has been 11 years in the making. People talk about the Doha Development Round, which started in 2001, as if was a mythical character in a box-office flop called Fantastic Trade Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Saul Loeb/Getty

Let’s add one more wrinkle here: Washington gridlock. Even though Republicans control the House, the Senate and the presidency, the debate over replacing Obamacare has revealed the unified government to be more like a dysfunctional family at a Christmas dinner. “Trump is no Lyndon Johnson,” says Robertson, “and while he is better than Obama at working congressional leadership, my friends tell me there are already antagonisms at the staff level between the Speaker/majority leader in the Senate and the White House.” Pass the gravy.

READ MORE: Trudeau can’t afford to just play Trump one-on-one

Not everyone thinks it will go this long. I spoke with Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chretien’s former senior political advisor, who believes the process could wrap up faster. “The Trump Administration will do its best to finish before the midterms in the U.S., so it is unlikely that the negotiations will be continuing during the next Canadian election campaign,” he says. Maybe. But as Robertson points out, the implementation and ratification will take another year-plus. “If there is any election issue,” Goldenberg says, “it will be about the government’s record—positive or negative—with respect to the outcome of the negotiations.”

That is true and the battle lines will quickly be drawn. The NDP needs to regain the union vote as it tacks back to the left and will likely oppose much of the deal unless it is radically changed to protect Canadian jobs, something no one here has signalled. But until Jack Layton, opposing free trade was the ticket to the NDP’s best success, and that formula will no doubt be back. The Conservatives are in a full identity crisis now, and will have to figure out if they want to play tough with the U.S. and go back to the Sir John A. MacDonald days of a National Policy—essentially copying Trump’s Buy American stance with a Buy Canadian—or if they want to follow the pro-free trade Mulroney-Harper path, which is more likely but offers less differentiation from the Liberals. Either way, the free trade deal will be the target. Everyone better grab a bazooka.

Trade with the U.S. has defined many Canadian elections, from 1867 to 1911 to 1988. Might as well get ready now and pencil in 2019 as another election fought over free trade.

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Getting Ready for NAFTA Negotiations

For Canada, all hands on deck during NAFTA renegotiations

The rules of the road for trade with our biggest trading partner are about to be renegotiated. We need an all-of-Canada effort to get ready.

The stakes are critical: Three-quarters of our exports head south to the United States. Trade with the United States represents almost a third of our GDP and it sustains close to one in five Canadian jobs.

In the coming days, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will formally advise Congress of NAFTA renegotiations, setting in play a 90-day consideration by House and Senate committees. By the latter part of the year, Mr. Ross expects that we will be into “real” negotiations that he predicts will take at least a year.

Following his White House meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month, President Donald Trump described the Canada-U.S. relationship as just needing some “tweaking.” But, as Mr. Ross told Bloomberg this week, “there is a lot of meat to be dealt with,” including addressing the digital economy and revising the rules of origin.

After meeting recently with her Mexican counterparts in Toronto , Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Canada’s preference is for trilateral negotiations. Mr. Trump prefers bilateral deals but Secretary Ross says he is “open-minded” about the form. Regardless, Canada and Mexico need to stay close to avoid the divide-and-conquer techniques that are integral to Mr. Trump’s “art of the deal.”

Getting Canada’s act together means real collaboration between the federal and provincial governments and close, continuing consultations with business, labour and civic society. We need consensus on two questions:

  • What do we want from the negotiations?
  • How do we get there?

The more creative we can be, the better. The expertise of sectoral advisory groups proved vital to the successful negotiation of the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement (1988) and NAFTA (1993-4). They should be resurrected and made permanent. We need to co-opt the best brains in our research community to rapidly crunch data and provide timely analysis for our negotiators.

The Canadian strategy going into the talks must be bold. A new agreement should be broad and comprehensive, providing for the free flow of people, goods and services with enforceable standards for labour and the environment. Let’s take the best from the stillborn (at least for now) Trans-Pacific Partnership. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to our mutually beneficial energy relationship in putting forward a Canadian policy that is both pragmatic and progressive.

Most of the American “asks” are readily identifiable. As Mr. Ross told Congress during his confirmation hearings, the United States wants to reduce its trade deficits and to restore manufacturing through increasing the “Made in America” content for rules of origin.

The United States Trade Representative annual National Trade Estimates report lists United States’ complaints with Canada. These include extending the intellectual property protection for pharmaceuticals; ending supply management for dairy and poultry; and inspecting for counterfeits, especially for Chinese goods shipped to U.S. destinations through Canadian ports like Vancouver or Prince Rupert.

The easiest solution on rules of origin would be to move to a customs union, but the Americans are unlikely to buy in unless it is a strictly Canada-U..S agreement. Otherwise we need to redefine rules of origin as “Made in North America.” American manufacturers should be our allies, especially those in the automotive industry, where supply-chain integration dates from the 1965 Canada-U.S. Auto Pact.

We should agree to counterfeit inspection in return for extended pre-clearance of goods and easier business travel access. Reforming supply management is long overdue, but let’s get something in return, such as access to U.S. shipbuilding contracts.

Where they were once divided, today Canada’s premiers are of like mind on the value of trade, leading missions across our oceans. Now they need to focus on our biggest customer, especially through cultivating their governor counterparts in regional meetings and through visits to their states. Premier Rachel Notley sets the bar through consistent visits to the US capitol and other US cities.

Access to procurement is vital, especially at the state and provincial government level and, for the premiers, this should be job one. Working with governors, they did a procurement reciprocity deal around the Obama infrastructure investments in 2010. Now we need to make it permanent.

The Americans like us, indeed, more than we like them. The Trudeau government has created good working relationships within the Trump administration. But complacency is a mistake. Mr. Trump’s priority is “making America great again.” The business of America is business. Canada needs to be ready.

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NAFTA Negotiations and Mexico

Bureaucrats ‘literally working around the clock’ to prep for NAFTA talks

‘We’re in a period of great uncertainty,’ one top bureaucrat told Senators last month. The foreign ministry is preparing for anything and everything as a trade renegotiation inches closer.

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump walk with each other at the White House on Feb. 13. Photograph courtesy of Donald Trump’s Twitter account


PUBLISHED : Wednesday, March 8, 2017 12:00 AM

The federal government is working day and night to prepare itself as the new Trump administration in the United States eyes restructuring the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a senior official in Canada’s foreign ministry.

“If my colleague Martin is looking a little tired these days, it’s because he and his trade policy colleagues are literally working around the clock to consider all of [the] different scenarios,” David Morrison, Global Affairs Canada’s assistant deputy minister in charge of the Americas, said of Martin Moen, GAC’s director general for North America and Investment, at a Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee meeting on Feb. 16.

“We really don’t know at this point how the U.S. wishes to proceed,” Mr. Moen told Senators.

Mr. Morrison said he believed the U.S. government is just now starting to think about how to deliver on President Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate the NAFTA, or tear it up.

He responded to questions from the Senators about Mexico’s place in any renegotiations—Mr. Trump has lambasted the NAFTA as favouring Mexico over the U.S.—by saying Mexico is “most definitely not being left out of the conversation.” Mr. Moen noted that the existing three-way deal allows just two of the partners to address some trade issues, such as trucking or the sugar trade, without drawing in the third.

Some Canadian government officials speaking anonymously to Reuters in January and former ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney have suggested Canada distance itself from Mexico, perceived to be the true target of Mr. Trump’s dissatisfaction with the NAFTA, which came into force in 1994.

In response to chatter about whether Canada should go it alone with the U.S., Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) underlined at a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Council for the Americas on Feb. 21 in Toronto that “NAFTA is a three-country agreement,” and “Were there to be any new negotiations, those would be three-way negotiations.”

In any case, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who also spoke at the event, said he understood if Canada avoided some of Mexico’s one-on-one concerns with the U.S. Each country would have its own agenda, the CBC reported him saying.

Ms. Freeland’s foreign ministry is preparing for the possibility of bilateral agreements with the U.S. and Mexico if a three-party deal can’t be struck, Mr. Morrison told the Senate committee.

“We’re in a period of great uncertainty, and in a period of uncertainty it’s prudent to prepare for all eventualities, and that’s of course what we’re doing.”

The federal government’s position is that NAFTA has benefited all three countries, said Mr. Moen, adding, “when we talk with business associations in the United States, with specific companies, with local governments, they all agree.”

“Regardless of rhetoric, Canada and many in the United States understand that a secure, stable, and prosperous Mexico is indispensable to Canada’s own prosperity and security,” said Mr. Morrison, listing security, human and drug trafficking, health pandemics, and energy systems integration as issues “best addressed collectively.”


Ninety days-plus to go

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that the NAFTA gives Mexico an advantage over his country, and has moved American jobs to Mexico.

He has been less critical of trade with Canada, calling it “a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border” during his press conference in Washington with Mr. Trudeau last month. Mr. Trump said the U.S. wanted to “tweak” its trading terms with Canada.

What that means is anyone’s guess. The U.S. and Canada have major or minor trade disputes centred around softwood lumber, dairy and chicken, drywall, wine, and proposals for country-of-origin labelling rules that would require products from north of the border to be tracked separately and labelled as foreign-made.

When Conservative MP Gerry Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster Sask.), his party’s trade critic, pressured the Liberal government in the House last month to make public what’s on the table for renegotiation in any NAFTA talks, Liberal MP Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, didn’t do so, but answered that his government would be ready for talks if and when the U.S. was ready to sit down.

That is still at least a few months away. Mr. Trump’s White House held an informal meeting with congressional leaders last month to discuss the NAFTA renegotiation, but has yet to start the clock on a 90-day window in which they will formally negotiate over how the U.S. should try to change the deal.

In Canada, Mr. Trudeau is leading a government-wide political charm offensive to match his foreign ministry’s efforts on the policy side. He restructured his cabinet, many think to better match it to the task of dealing with a Trump administration, and dispatched his top aides and cabinet ministers to the U.S. to build ties with the Trump team and the new Congress. Many of the Liberal-led House committees are also planning to travel to Washington to meet their counterparts in the next few months.


Top Canadian industries exporting to the U.S. last year

Source: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada

Auto manufacturing—$60.6-billion

Oil and gas extraction—$60.3-billion

Petroleum refineries—$12.1-billion

Aerospace parts and manufacturing—$9.1-billion

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing—$8.5-billion

Sawmills and wood preservation—$8.2-billion

Aluminum production and processing—$7.6-billion

Resin, synthetic rubber manufacturing—$6.7-billion

Ferrous metal (non aluminum) smelting and refining—$5.9-billion

Other plastic product manufacturing—$5.3-billion


Mix with Mexico, or go it alone?

With U.S. President Donald Trump aiming his disappointment with NAFTA at Mexico rather than Canada, analysts and government officials are weighing in on whether Canada should push for a revised two-way or three-way deal.


Take a step back from the trilateral:

“We should not indulge in ridiculous posturing—like getting together with Mexico to defend our interests, when Canada has very different economic interests than Mexico. It is a fundamental error to conflate them.”

—Former ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney, Maclean’s, Jan. 30


“We love our Mexican friends. But our national interests come first and the friendship comes second.”

—An unnamed source quoted by Reuters on the sidelines of a cabinet retreat in Calgary, Jan. 24.


“Mexico is in a terrible, terrible position. We are not.”

—An unnamed Canadian involved on the trade file quoted by Reuters Jan. 24.



Don’t throw Mexico under the bus:

“Our relationship with Mexico is important. We should stand with the Mexican government and help them deal with the discriminatory trends that they are now seeing.”

—Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, speaking to reporters Jan. 30,


“Canada may not be in the crosshairs in the same fashion as Mexico but we have no immunity from Trumpian threats. Canada and Mexico need to hang together or, surely, we will hang separately.”

—Former diplomat Colin Robertson, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 16


“The Trump presidency should bring Mexico and Canada much closer together, not tear us apart. Whatever trade or investment measures the U.S. applies to our country may end up harming Canada as well and destroying the competitive advantages that the North American value chain has brought since NAFTA came into force 23 years ago.”

—Andrés Rozental, former deputy foreign minister of Mexico, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 27


“NAFTA is a three-country agreement. Were there to be any new negotiations, those would be three-way negotiations.”

—Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking at a Feb. 21 Toronto panel discussion


“Throwing friends and neighbours and allies under the bus is a position for a weak leader. This is not the Canadian tradition.”

—Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, CBC’s Power and Politics, Feb. 21

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Trump and Trudeau

How Trudeau could play nice with Trump

If physical security and economic growth are priorities for Trump, Canada might be in a good shape, says expert

Mike Blanchfield and Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes opening remarks before meeting with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Ottawa, Friday, January 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Boost defence spending, dial down the volume on battling climate change and find a bridge or energy project to build together.

That was the expert advice Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received Friday on how to get along with new U.S. President Donald Trump and make Canada relevant to his “America First” policy.

Derek Burney, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. under Brian Mulroney, said Trump’s protectionist, pro-American inauguration speech need not be cause for the Trudeau government light its “hair on fire” because there is plenty of policy space for Canada to plug into.

“If physical security and economic growth are his priorities, we’re in good shape to be constructively co-operative with him on both,” said Burney.

“We have common infrastructure that needs modernizing along our border.” He suggested joining forces to modernize the Canada-U.S. electricity grid, or jointly building the proposed Gordie Howe Bridge between southern Ontario and Michigan.

Boosting defence spending should also be seriously considered, said Burney because the U.S. is spending a disproportionate amount in NATO — something Trump has complained loudly about this past week.

Roland Paris, Trudeau’s former foreign policy adviser, said increasing defence spending makes sense regardless of Trump, because it’s a necessary “insurance policy” in an unstable world beset with security threats.

“The ‘America First’ model that Trump has articulated poses a signal challenge to all of America’s partners, whether it’s Europe partners, other members of NATO, Mexico, Canada.”

RELATED: And the biggest economic uncertainty for Canada under Trump is…

Canada doesn’t need to be scared of the Trump administration as long as it creates “a relationship where they see us as partners, not competition,” said Georganne Burke, an American-born Trump supporter who is a vice-president of a Toronto public relations firm.

But Trudeau and his ministers have to hold firm to their constructive approach towards wanting to find common ground with Trump and “stay away from the snark” in its messaging, she said.

That means toning down the rhetoric on the threats posed by climate change because most U.S. conservatives were angered by Barack Obama’s characterization of it as the greatest threat to the world, she said. “They will be willing to talk about environmental issues but they’re going to talk about it in a more conservative fashion.”

Colin Robertson, a veteran ex-diplomat with extensive U.S. experience, said it is crucial for Trudeau and his team to continue pushing the fact that millions of American jobs depend on trade with Canada and that 35 U.S. states count Canada as their top customer.

Robertson said Trudeau took the right approach when said he looked forward to working not only with Trump’s administration but with Congress, state and local governments “to restore prosperity to the middle class on both sides of the border and to create a safer and more peaceful world.”

Trudeau reminded Trump of Canada’s historically close ties with the U.S. in his congratulatory statement issued minutes after the billionaire businessman was sworn in as the 45th president.

“This enduring partnership is essential to our shared prosperity and security,” Trudeau said, citing “robust” trade, investment and economic ties that have long linked the two countries, while supporting millions of jobs.

“We both want to build economies where the middle class, and those working hard to join it, have a fair shot at success.”

Trudeau also spoke to the provincial and territorial premiers about the new administration.

His office said he and the premiers stressed the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship and discussed the opportunities presented by the transition in Washington.

RELATED: How the Trudeau government is bracing for Trump

Earlier Friday, the prime minister urged the mayors of Canada’s biggest cities to keep close ties with their American counterparts to maintain an open border with the U.S. Those relationships will be vital to ensuring open dialogue and trade between the two countries, he said.

The mayors say their relationships with municipal leaders on the other side could serve as a counterbalance to any protectionist movements initiated by the Trump administration, given the trade ties between Canada and American cities and states.

“The United States is not just one president,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who pointed to an upcoming meeting he has with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the issue of climate change.

“It’s a complex system and we’ll do what we have to do. We are already working really hard with different colleagues from south of the border.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he hopes Canada remains open to immigrants from all over the world should Trump follow through on his protectionist threats.

“Let’s ensure that we are open to the world, to trade, to brains to money to ideas and make sure that we seize on this opportunity.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said taking a seat in the Oval Office could change Trump.

“You realize you have to represent and lead everyone. So I’m hopeful that President Trump will understand that with that office.”

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Managing Trump

Trudeau-Trump will be no ‘bromance’

This week’s election result surprised most Canadians, but now we need to prepare for a Trump administration.

The kind of “bromance” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau developed with U.S. President Barack Obama is unlikely to be repeated. Nevertheless, Mr. Trudeau needs to personally lead Canadian efforts to exercise, as he once put it, “effective influence” in Donald Trump’s Washington in order to advance Canadian objectives.

Premiers and legislators have to help. Our political leadership needs to reach out to Mr. Trump’s transition team and to Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress and in the States. Business and labour leaders need to step up with their counterparts to underline the shared value of our “strong integrated economies.”

Our message is simple: An integrated North American (including Mexican) approach to economic development, especially around energy, serves our mutual interests. Canadian outreach means identifying and calling our American friends to action.

Mr. Trump’s campaign agenda was mostly delivered in broad strokes. Now, we need to register our positions to help shape his administration’s policy direction. Rather than trying to boil the ocean, our efforts should focus on three areas:

  • Security: Mr. Trump expects North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to pull their weight.
  • Trade: Mr. Trump wants a revision of the North American free-trade agreement because of American job losses.
  • Energy: Mr. Trump calls for more drilling of fossil fuels, fewer regulations and withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

On trade, we need to remind Mr. Trump’s team that Canadian trade and investment is behind an estimated nine million American jobs. Nearly 80 per cent of what Canada sells to the United States goes into American-made goods and services.

Mr. Trump wants an ambitious infrastructure building program. We need to figure out how to integrate our governments’ infrastructure programs into this effort and so improve our mutual competitiveness.

The message on burden-sharing is not new, although Mr. Trump delivers it in his characteristic blunt fashion. We need to look anew at the defence review, especially the pace and scope of our figher-jet replacement and fleet renewal. Reaching the NATO spending target is important. U.S. national security leadership will confirm that co-operation between our military, security and intelligence services is excellent. We are also contributing to the campaign against the Islamic State, putting boots on the ground in Latvia and reinvigorating Canadian peace operations.

On energy, Mr. Trump promises approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. We need to persuade his team to look at energy as a continental resource that, if we manage it well, will fuel the manufacturing renaissance he wants to create.

While Mr. Trump may not be immediately receptive, there are allies in Congress who support continuing collaboration on clean energy because it makes sense and creates jobs. Meantime, we need to move on pipelines to tidewater within Canada so we can get full value from our natural inheritance.

At his first meeting with Mr. Trump, Mr. Trudeau must avoid falling into what former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice described as the Canadian penchant for focusing on “condominium issues,” and instead focus on getting to know one another.

If we have one ask, it should be to continue the North American energy ministers’ meetings. It has been a successful catalyst for practical action. Leave the “transactionals” for later discussions at the ministerial and ambassadorial level.

The byword going forward, for federal and provincial governments, should be constant engagement with their counterparts in the United States. The best way to shield ourselves from populism and protectionism is by personally making our case to Americans.

Success will depend on cultivating and sustaining relationships at all levels through a thousand points of contact. For example, Canadian premiers and legislators should attend inaugurations for the new governors, especially those elected in the five border-state elections. Canadian parliamentarians, business and labour leaders should plan to head south for the presidential inauguration and then join Americans to watch the parade from the Canadian embassy. Our snowbirds need to remind their American friends how Canada supports their security and how our trade and investment creates their jobs.

To help better understand the public mood that led so many Americans to vote for Mr. Trump, read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. One astute former U.S. ambassador has observed that Canadians think that they know all they need to know about the United States, while Americans think they know all they need to know about Canada – but we are both wrong.

As Canadians learned again this week, there is still a lot we need to learn and understand about our southern neighbours – and, just as important, that we need to help them understand about us.

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Canada-US Relations after Obama

Publié le 31 mars 2016 à 05h00 | Mis à jour le 31 mars 2016 à 05h00

Justin Trudeau prépare l’après-Obama

Justin Trudeau a rencontré des étudiants de l'Université... (PHOTO PC)


Justin Trudeau a rencontré des étudiants de l’Université américaine, à Washington, le 11 mars dernier. La veille, le premier ministre canadien a été reçu en grande pompe par le président américain Barack Obama à la Maison-Blanche.

(Ottawa) Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau multiplie les visites aux États-Unis. L’objectif est de préparer tranquillement le terrain pour l’après-Obama en tissant des alliances avec les décideurs américains, mais aussi avec le monde des affaires.

M. Trudeau effectue aujourd’hui une troisième visite chez nos voisins du Sud en moins d’un mois après avoir été reçu en grande pompe par le président Barack Obama à la Maison-Blanche le 10 mars et après s’être rendu au siège des Nations unies, le 16 mars, afin d’annoncer que le Canada tentera de décrocher un des sièges temporaires au Conseil de sécurité pour un mandat de deux ans à compter de 2021.

Officiellement, M. Trudeau se trouve dans la capitale américaine aujourd’hui afin de participer au sommet international sur la sûreté nucléaire organisé par le président américain. Le scénario d’une «bombe sale» qui pourrait tomber entre les mains de djihadistes du groupe État islamique (EI) alimentera les travaux de ce sommet.

M. Trudeau profitera tout de même de l’occasion pour prononcer un discours devant les membres de la puissante Chambre de commerce des États-Unis. Même s’il évitera comme la peste de s’immiscer dans les primaires américaines, M. Trudeau rappellera l’importance des relations canado-américaines.

Dans les rangs libéraux, on soutient que les nombreuses visites du premier ministre sur le sol américain – il sera de nouveau à New York le 22 avril afin de signer l’accord de Paris sur les changements climatiques – s’inscrivent dans une volonté de tisser rapidement des liens avec les décideurs de la scène politique et du monde des affaires.

Car les autorités canadiennes auront éventuellement besoin de ces nouveaux liens pour faire avancer les dossiers qu’elles jugent prioritaires une fois que Barack Obama aura terminé son mandat.

«C’est une excellente stratégie»

Selon l’ancien ambassadeur du Canada aux États-Unis Raymond Chrétien, il est tout à fait avisé pour le premier ministre de tisser de tels liens avec les leaders politiques et les gens d’affaires afin de préparer l’après-Obama.

« C’est une excellente stratégie, après sa très belle visite à la Maison-Blanche. M. Trudeau fait d’une pierre deux coups. D’abord, il participe à un sommet international important sur la sécurité nucléaire. Ensuite, il profite de l’occasion pour s’adresser aux gens d’affaires. Il ne reste plus que huit ou neuf mois au président Obama », a affirmé à La Presse M. Chrétien, aujourd’hui associé et conseiller stratégique chez Fasken Martineau.

L’ancien diplomate aux États-Unis Colin Robertson a abondé dans le même sens. «Cela est tout à fait logique. Les gens d’affaires aux États-Unis sont conscients de l’importance de la relation commerciale entre les deux pays. Mais le protectionnisme est à la mode dans les deux partis. Normalement, on peut compter sur le Parti républicain pour défendre le libre-échange. Mais il y a eu un revirement important dans l’attitude des républicains qui appuient Donald Trump, qui évoque l’imposition de tarifs», a affirmé M. Robertson, vice-président de l’Institut canadien des affaires mondiales.

La Presse a rapporté hier que des regroupements de gens d’affaires du Canada s’inquiètent du discours résolument protectionniste qui domine les primaires américaines depuis plusieurs semaines. À la Chambre de commerce du Canada, on soutient que les propositions de certains candidats pourraient bien provoquer le chaos économique si elles étaient mises en oeuvre.

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Trudeau Obama Summit

Discussing the potential agenda of the Trudeau-Obama White House meeting on Question Period with Laura Dawson, John Manley and host Robert Fife.

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Trudeau and Obama Washington meeting

Trudeau’s challenge in Washington? Think beyond Obama

There will be glitter and glamour next week when U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau at the White House. But behind the stagecraft there will be statecraft.

For Mr. Trudeau, and for Canada, it’s a golden opportunity. The meetings between these two leaders will reinvigorate Canada-U.S. relations after a decade of decline and set an agenda that that will serve as the reference point for the next administration.

In Washington, the inter-agency effort behind the meetings around the state dinner, the first for a Canadian prime minister since Bill and Hillary Clinton hosted Jean and Aline Chrétien in 1997, is the most sustained attention that Canada has received since Mr. Obama visited Canada in February, 2009.

In the final year of his presidency and facing a hostile Congress, Mr. Obama is commonly called a “lame duck” president. But armed with executive authorities and the determination to push them to their limits, Mr. Obama has shown he wants to fire on all pistons before leaving office on January 20, 2017.

For Mr. Trudeau, the visit is an opportunity to advance shared goals on climate and energy, international security, the economy as well as border management and trade.

These meetings generally begin with a survey of the international scene. U.S. presidents are always interested in the Canadian perspective. We are different from the Americans, but no other nation comes as close to understanding the American temperament. When we are on our game, we can explain the rest of the world to the U.S. and the U.S. to the rest of the world.

Astute Canadian leaders, from Mackenzie King through Jean Chrétien, appreciated that this interpretative capacity gives Canada international leverage. It underlines why a first-class diplomatic service is a very good Canadian investment — and why vigorously embracing multilateralism gives us additional place and standing.

Advancing the ‘green’ agenda

With four international summits and Davos under his belt, Mr. Trudeau brings a fresh view, if not yet deep experience, to the table. Mr. Trudeau’s recommitment to peace operations and his vow to tout Canada’s resourcefulness over its resources will interest Mr. Obama. Figuring out an external application of Canada’s success in pluralism to fix, even temporarily, deep divides of race and religion, would be as important a contribution as Lester Pearson’s peacekeeping work.

Positioning North America as a leader in “green” manufacturing and sustainable energy development is a goal shared by both leaders and the work of these Washington meetings will also prime the forthcoming North American leaders’ summit, which was postponed by former prime minister Stephen Harper amid chilly relations.

Building on our Paris commitments, the Washington meetings can help establish a joint agenda for climate action that includes, for example, a discussion around fracking and water usage that should become the global standards. Why not broaden the mandate of the century-old International Joint Commission, the global model for trans-boundary water use, to include climate issues?

Assuaging concerns on security

When it comes to security, we live under the long shadows of suspicion, however unfair, cast by 9-11. Giving sanctuary to the 25,000 Syrian refugees was the right thing to do but it sparked hearings by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee. At parliamentary hearings last week, CSIS acknowledged tracking 180 Canadians engaged with terrorist organizations overseas, including 50 who have returned to Canada.

For our own protection and to assuage American concerns, we need to move on our long-promised entry-exit arrangements. There should be reciprocal exchange of no-fly lists, with appropriate confidentiality provisions drawn, for example, from the recent EU-US privacy shield on data sharing.

Making progress on trade

Mr.Trudeau identified the economy, national unity and managing the Canada-U.S. relationship as prime ministerial priorities. Economic well-being underpins national unity. Trade drives our economy and the U.S. accounts for 75 per cent of that trade.

Mr. Trudeau needs to press Mr. Obama to reinvigorate improved border access because it will increase our trade in goods and services, especially with the U.S. economy in recovery.

Mr. Trudeau can remind Mr. Obama that, as their largest customer, we buy more from the U.S. than all 28 nations in the European Union, creating an estimated 9 million American jobs. Almost 30 per cent of what Canada sells to the U.S. originated there, reflecting the growing importance of supply chains.

But chokepoints still exist. We need to pass enabling legislation on pre-clearance. We can deepen the benefits of trusted traveller and trusted employer programs. A joint approach to gateway infrastructure – roads, rail, pipelines, transmission lines – should aim for common standards and a transparent permitting system.

With trade comes protectionist interests. Softwood lumber, the Freddy Krueger of irritants, is returning. The affected provinces need to get their act together before we can develop a Canadian position. Meanwhile, with careful, constant attention, starting at the top, the relationship thrives.

Next week’s meeting in Washington celebrates the friendship between our leaders and nations. It will also demonstrate to the rest of the world a model for the conduct of good neighbourly relations.

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Obama and Trudeau summit

What will Trudeau and Obama get done at their meeting in March?

John Ibbitson The Globe and Mail

Justin Trudeau’s state visit to Washington March 10 will be impressively ceremonial, with the Prime Minister and President Barack Obama walking side by side in black tie into a glittering room, accompanied by their wives. But whether anything actually gets done during the visit depends on how badly the new Liberal government wants action on the border question, and how willing Mr. Obama is to oblige.

By the time of the visit, the 44th President will be a pretty lame duck, with the election of his successor less than eight months away. There is little or nothing he will be able to get through the Republican-controlled Congress. But Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who specializes in international relations, believes there is one key area where Mr. Obama could act on his own. “A preclearance agreement is certainly within his grasp,” Mr. Robertson said Tuesday . “There’s a deal there to be fixed, and it would certainly be in our interest.”

“Preclearance” is an initiative that came out of the Beyond the Border agreement signed in 2011 between Mr. Obama and then-prime minister Stephen Harper. The accord was intended to improve continental security while easing congestion at the Canada-U.S. border. Under that accord, goods entering either Canada or the United States could be jointly inspected and cleared, and could then cross the Canada-U.S. border without further inspection.

But the Department of Homeland Security has been blocking implementation, Mr. Robertson said. If the Trudeau team really wanted to see action on this file, they could lay the groundwork over the coming months that could lead to a March 10 announcement on new plans to advance the agenda on implementing preclearance protocols. If, that is, Mr. Obama is willing.

“He could do that by simply giving the regulatory guidance to the Department of Homeland Security,” said Mr. Robertson. “We could move ahead on this.”

Adam Barratt, a spokesman for the Department of Global Affairs, said that the Liberal government is committed to making “substantial progress” in reducing impediments to trade and commerce. “To this end, we will be taking a close look at files, such as preclearance, that could facilitate the movement of people between our countries,” he said by e-mail. The effort will be led by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

The press release announcing the visit stated that the Prime Minister and the President planned to discuss “energy and climate change, security, and the economic relationship.” In the matter of security and the economy, action on preclearance, harmonizing regulations and making it easier for people to cross the border on business are all Beyond the Border initiatives that could be advanced in 2016, Mr. Robertson maintained.

Whether any movement is possible on energy and climate change could depend on another planned meeting of Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau. Though nothing has been confirmed, the two leaders and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are expected to have a “three amigos” meeting in Canada in April or late March, preceded by meetings of the foreign and energy ministers. A common approach to safety and environmental standards for fracking oil and natural gas is one possible outcome, Mr. Robertson speculated, while the Americans might also push Canada for environmental action in the Arctic.

Mr. Trudeau will doubtless be tempted to meet with Hillary Clinton, should she be in Washington. By then, the former secretary of state is likely to have trounced Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, thus becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Liberals and Democrats generally get along, and Ms. Clinton, a former New York senator, knows Canada well. Should she win the presidential election in November, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Clinton could be expected to work co-operatively on a number of files until at least 2019, when Mr. Trudeau’s first term will expire. But such a meeting would violate the unwritten code of neutrality that Canadian prime ministers must adhere to during American elections. At the least, Mr. Trudeau couldn’t meet with Ms. Clinton without also meeting with the presumptive Republican nominee. And it is far from clear whether we will know who that is by March 10.

A Liberal government in Ottawa could do business with a Republican administration led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio or former Florida governor Jeb Bush, both of whom are mainstream candidates. But both men are currently trailing in the polls. The thought of either businessman Donald Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz – even if he was born in Canada – as president would appall Mr. Trudeau as much as it would appall most Canadians. Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz are currently first and second in the Republican race, even though Mr. Cruz is an extreme right-winger and Mr. Trump is, to put it gently, a xenophobe. No more state dinners for Mr. Trudeau if either of those two men becomes president.

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Manage the Chinese relationship at a personal level

by Maureen Boyd and Colin Robertson excerpted from the Glboe and Mail, February 7, 2012.

On his second official trip to China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will appreciate that managing the China relationship is as important for our time as managing German ambition was for the first half of the 20th century.

At some point in the 2020s, China is expected to have the largest economy in the world, generating twice as much trade as the United States. The World Bank reckons the Chinese “miracle” has pulled 400 million people from poverty. China leapfrogged over Britain, Germany and Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. Playing host to the Olympics in 2008 was China’s demonstration that it had arrived. China is now the alternate economic centre to the United States.

The miracle is not without warts. Social unrest is an abiding preoccupation of the Chinese leadership. The fear, as Mao Zedong put it, is that “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” Domestic stability is fundamental. This has led to celebrated confrontations with dissidents and over access to information.

In contrast to when Mao systematically tried to destabilize neighbours and spread communism, leadership since Deng Xiaoping has demonstrated a willingness to play according to “Western” rules. There’s still work to be done, especially around intellectual property, cyber espionage and human rights. Yet, for the most part, China has behaved responsibly in the World Trade Organization, G20 and climate-change negotiations.

Canadians have a role to play in ensuring that the international system responds to the changing concert of powers and that China is accorded place, standing and respect in a new order built on peaceful, competitive dynamism.

Our geography, demography and resources give us cards to play. As Mr. Harper has learned, it’s never easy dealing with the Middle Kingdom and its sensitivities. By focusing on people-to-people connections, we build trust that will serve our commercial interests and advance our ability to play constructive internationalism, especially in the critical Sino-American relationship.

We start with a couple of advantages. First, our history. Still a staple in Chinese liturgy on Canada is the legacy of Norman Bethune and the remembrance that we defied convention by recognizing China in 1970. Second, our existing people-to-people ties. Since 2000, China has supplied almost one-fifth of our new immigrants; today, 1.4 million Canadians claim Chinese ancestry.

Our Chinese diaspora and its ties throughout Greater China give us a head start in developing a “smart” relationship. Let’s focus on tourism and education. Achieving “approved destination status” during Mr. Harper’s last visit resulted in a 25-per-cent increase in tourists. We should aim to increase this tenfold, but we need to improve our visa services and make Canadian hotels more friendly. For example, Chinese like their tea, so put a kettle beside the coffee maker. Where once we led in education, the Australians now set the pace. Vest our trade commissioners with responsibility for education marketing. Today’s student is tomorrow’s trader, investor or immigrant.

Commerce, covering everything from forestry to financial services, is our other objective. Manulife first started selling insurance in China more than a century ago. Canadian companies that invested time and effort are making money from sales of subway cars to potash to the malt for Chinese beer. China is on track to becoming the premier destination for our softwood lumber exports. Having alternate markets increases our leverage as a seller, yet another reason why we need a pipeline to the Pacific.

Trade flows two ways. Much of the cargo that will eventually be carried through our Northwest Passage will be stamped “made in China.” We should put out the welcome mat and sponsor China for membership in the Arctic Council as we prepare to assume its chairmanship.

The West, including Canada, has teeter-tottered between two conflicting approaches, one stemming from the missionary experience and the other from the realist school of interest and power. Alone, neither is a sound basis for policy-making. Dealing with China requires patience, perseverance and hard bargaining. The China question is the challenge for statecraft in this century; it starts with getting to know one another better.

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