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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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

By PETER MAZEREEUW

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.

peter@hilltimes.com

@PJMazereeuw

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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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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Trudeau, Trump and the Goldilocks Strategy

Why Trudeau’s ‘Goldilocks’ strategy with Trump is the best approach

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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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Negotiating trade with China, USA, EU

Relations are improving, but we still don’t know what we want from China: Former diplomat ‘The Close’ BNN February 2, 2017

As Canada gets set to look at strengthening trade ties with China, Dentons LLP Senior Advisor Colin Robertson and former Canadian Diplomat tells BNN he’s not convinced Canada knows what it wants from China.

http://www.bnn.ca/the-close/relations-are-improving-but-we-still-don-t-know-what-we-want-from-china-former-diplomat~1049260​

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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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Inauguration Party at Canadian Embassy

Canadian embassy the hottest ticket in town for inauguration

The embassy’s invite-only inauguration “tail-gate” party and VIP brunch is going ahead as planned Friday, and officials insist it could be even larger than similar events held for previous incoming U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama in 2009.

As many as 1,800 people are expected at the embassy, which has hosted inauguration parties every four years dating back to 1993 – for Bill Clinton – leveraging its strategic location on the Pennsylvania Ave., parade route, between the Capitol and the White House.

Bigger, but also a little more awkward than usual, given that Mr. Trump has railed against much of what Canada holds dear, including open borders, free trade and international institutions such as NATO.

Read more: When is Trump the president? Your guide to the U.S. inauguration

Read more: Canadian embassy the hottest ticket in town for inauguration

Read more: What does the Trump era mean for Canada? A guide to what’s coming

But Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton isn’t about to pass up a rare opportunity to mingle with guests, expected to include key players in government, along with diplomats, lobbyists and policy experts. Among the expected guests will be a contingent of Canadian officials led by Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s new Foreign Minister, along with MP and retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, slated to become parliamentary secretary to Ms. Freeland with special responsibilities for Canada-U.S. relations.

“Hosting an event at our embassy gives Canada an excellent opportunity to welcome important guests, further build on our relationships and continue to advance Canada’s interests in the United States,” embassy spokeswoman Christine Constantin said.

The embassy’s sixth-floor terrace offers sweeping views of the Capitol and the parade route, making it one of the most sought-after spots for Washington A-listers to catch the pomp, circumstance and a glimpse of the new president – with the possible exception of Mr. Trump’s newest hotel, also located on Pennsylvania Ave.

Michael Wilson, who was ambassador in 2009, recalls standing on the embassy steps, surrounded by saluting Mounties in their iconic red serge jackets, as Mr. Obama’s motorcade passed by.

“We have pictures … and inside the darkened windows, you can see the President with a big smile on his face, waving at us,” Mr. Wilson said. “It was quite a fun day.”

Mr. Wilson acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s presidency will be uniquely challenging for Canada, but he insisted that the inauguration is primarily a day of celebration. And the embassy remains a powerful draw on inauguration day. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be telling “the Canadian story” to Americans, he said.

The vantage point to watch the presidential inauguration from the Canadian embassy “is just terrific,” said Maryscott Greenwood, head of the Canadian American Business Council, which represents about 100 companies with business in both countries.

“If you’re going to be in D.C., there isn’t a better place to be,” said Ms. Greenwood, who will be attending the party on Friday.

“It’s a hotly coveted invitation, because it’s a great location, it’s beautiful, it’s convenient. It’s kind of like being in the VIP box at a hockey game or something. You have a bathroom, you have food, interesting people, great view, TVs.”

As with previous inaugurations, the embassy will use the event to promote all things Canadian, including trade, tourism and Canadian fare. This year’s offerings will include Canadian beer, B.C. salmon, tourtière and poutine. The pillars of the embassy’s rotunda facing the parade route will be adorned with words of hope and optimism – “friends, neighbours, partners, allies” – in giant letters.

The party is typically a well-attended, bipartisan event, which represents the celebration of American democracy – not just a particular president.

But of course, Mr. Trump isn’t an ordinary president.

“This is a president who campaigned on, among other things, tearing up NAFTA and questioning NATO. Everything about Donald J. Trump is different. So, yes I think it will different,” Ms. Greenwood said.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who helped organize the 2005 inauguration party for George W. Bush at the embassy, acknowledged this event could be a little trickier than previous ones for Canadian officials.

“The politics are always particular,” he said. “But for us, it’s an opportunity to meet people we haven’t met and connect with them. Because it’s such a great viewing spot, you just never know who’s going to show up.”

The embassy usually posts spotters at the door to identify important guests in the crowd, Mr. Robertson said. In 2009, Arizona Senator John McCain and former House speaker Newt Gingrich rubbed shoulders with actor Michael J. Fox and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

The all-day event starts at 10.30 a.m. Guests will be able to watch the swearing-in and inaugural address from the Capitol building on big-screen TVs. Most of the thousand-plus guests will get to party in the embassy courtyard and the large Canada Room reception area. A more limited number of VIPs are invited to share brunch in the ambassador’s sixth-floor suite, taking in views of the parade as well as the embassy’s art collection, which includes works by the Group of Seven.

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Canada and Mexico

If Canadians are wary about the incoming Donald Trump administration, think about the Mexicans. For them, Mr. Trump presents a clear and present danger.

His threats have moved beyond promises to deport “two … it could even be three million” and to build a “Great Wall” across the entire land border that “will be paid back by Mexico.”

Threatening to impose a 35-per-cent border tax, president-elect Trump has cajoled American, Japanese and German companies to abandon their investment plans in Mexico. The peso has plummeted to its lowest levels ever against the U.S. dollar.

To prepare for a President Trump, President Enrique Pena Nieto recently appointed a new Foreign Minister, Luis Videgaray, and yet another new ambassador to the U.S. (the third in nine months). In speeches to Mexico’s diplomatic corps last week, both Mr. Nieto and Mr. Videgary said that in any negotiations with the U.S., the entire bilateral relationship would be on the table, and that Mexico will not pay for the wall.

For Canadians to feel smug or secure would be a mistake. We may not yet be a direct target, but we are within Mr. Trump’s range of vision.

Inevitably, we would become collateral damage, especially when it comes to protectionist border measures. A survey last month of Trump supporters revealed that 73 per cent expect either a better deal or withdrawal from NAFTA within the first 100 days of the Trump presidency.

Mr. Trump promises more enforcement capacity to secure U.S. borders and, at last week’s Senate Homeland Security confirmation hearing for secretary-designate Gen. John Kelly, both Democrats and Republicans told him not to ignore the northern border and pressed for more security. Eight of its 15 members come from northern border states.

Nor would Canada be exempt from any new border tax, said Mr. Trump’s press secretary last week. The National Bank of Canada has estimated a 10-per-cent border levy would cause Canadian exports to slump 9 per cent within a year.

Canada and Mexico need to make common cause in the face of Trumpian excess. A visit to Mexico, before the summer, by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would visibly underline our enduring partnership at a time when Mexicans are feeling vulnerable and alone.

While our borders are different and our responses will reflect our particular circumstances, we need to stay close, especially in any NAFTA discussion with Washington.

An active advocacy campaign – a joint effort led by our consuls, suppliers and their customers – needs to inform Americans, especially those living in the 31 states won by Mr. Trump, that their first or second markets are either Canada or Mexico.

Studies conducted for the Canadian Embassy and by the Wilson Center estimate that our commerce accounts for over 14 million American jobs. Underlining our integrated continental market is the fact that 40 per cent of the finished goods that Americans buy from Mexico, and 20 per cent of what they buy from Canada, is “made in the U.S.A.”

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, got it right when she warned there is “too much emotion and not enough fact” out there. Ms. Hasenfratz, who also chairs the Business Council of Canada, argues that adding cost and inefficiency would undercut our global competitiveness. The ultimate cost will be borne by the consumer.

We should look at expanding Canada-Mexico trade in produce – their tomatoes and vegetables for our beef and pork. There are major Canadian investments in Mexico – producing trains, planes and automobiles – as well as banking and mining operations. We need an active investment outreach to encourage Mexican firms to follow the lead of Grupo Bimbo, the world’s leading baker, that owns Canada Bread.

Then there are the people-to-people ties. With the visa lifted we can and need to encourage more Mexican tourism and study in Canada.

Any renegotiation of NAFTA should begin with including the improvements already negotiated through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): preclearance of goods; increasing the number of professionals eligible for fast-track passage and temporary employment; and a trilateral approach to new infrastructure to enhance North American competitiveness.

If Mr. Trump repudiates NAFTA then we should keep it (U.S. withdrawal does not kill NAFTA like it does the TPP) and look for prospective new partners, including Britain, the Pacific Alliance (that includes Chile, Colombia and Peru) and to new partners across the Pacific.

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.

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Joe Biden Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to expect from Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reputation for plain talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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