By Max Singh
Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President is causing concern in the Far North.
“Trump has been forward and all consuming in making certain campaign platforms into policy. Some say, the policies are in direct opposition to Canadian values.”
“Trump has argued NAFTA is unfair to the U.S and say the agreement with Canada needs to be “tweaked.”
“With the longest undefended border in the world, and as its biggest trading partner, Canadians are watching to see how things turn out in the U.S. under Trump.”
With the unprecedented election of businessman and real estate mogul Donald Trump to the position of the highest and most powerful position in the free world, Canada’s close relationship with the U.S. has never been under more scrutiny and of concern. Trump’s election promises, stances on such issues as trade, immigration, and border controls change have antagonized Canadians and may have far-reaching consequences. In contrast to most politicians, Trump has been forward and all consuming in making sure campaign platforms into policy. Some of the policies are in direct opposition to Canadian (And some would say American) values.
U.S. – CANADA TRADE AND BUSINESS
Donald Trump made radically overhauling U.S. trade arrangements a key issue in his campaign and had campaigned on a pledge to force Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, to provide greater benefits to U.S. businesses. This is part of a push by Trump to drive for a more “America First,” less globalized US trade strategy. Trump has argued NAFTA is unfair to the U.S and say the agreement with Canada needs to be “tweaked.” Trump has also planned to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and take a more aggressive line on trade with Mexico and China.
Whether Canada will suffer in the trade stakes, remains to be seen, but there will be fallout as Trump plans to keep jobs and wealth in America. Approximately $51 billion in goods cross the Canada-U.S. border per month. Any loss of jobs and trade in powerhouse provinces such as the Auto industry in Ontario would be traumatic for Canada. In British Columbia, the provinces softwood lumber industry is in trepidation as it waits for a new softwood export agreement with the U.S. The province supplies almost 50% of the country’s softwood lumber exports to the United States and worries it may be strong armed over a deal that much more favorable to the U.S.
Some business leaders in Canada argue that if NAFTA is affected; cross-border flows goods and people across the border could be hampered with extra trade tariffs and regulations.
On the flip side, Trump has not singled out Canada for unfair trade in the way he has Mexico, or China for a particular action. Trump’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline means good news for Alberta crude oil producers, and a positive outlook in the Canada-U.S. energy trading relationship. Plans to review U.S. banking regulations has given Canadian financial institutions with high U.S. links hope for more profits if U.S. financial rules imposed after the 2008 financial crisis are relaxed.
Thankfully, recent remarks at a White House press conference about “building a wall along Canada” were laughed off. However, Trump is keeping to his promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. On January 27 President Trump signed an executive order stopping refugee admissions and suspended entry for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq (Since rescinded), Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. The Trump Presidency is also planning to consolidate and introduce more border controls in the form of more extensive security screening. Other measures include possible joint U.S and Canadian initiatives to share information on travelers’ entry and departures. It is widely believed that the Trump administration will significantly ask for Canada to beef up its borders and checkpoints.
Trump has promised to deport illegal immigrants in the U.S., in particular, those from Mexico. He introduced a travel ban seen as widely unfairly targeting religious minorities from entering the United States. The crackdown on refugee claims contrasts to that of Canada—which has done the opposite, allowing in nearly 34,000 Syrian refugees, and offering help to those affected by the Trump travel ban. In direct contrast to the Trump hardline on Mexican illegal immigrants, Canada no longer requires Mexicans to obtain a travel visa.
One result of the fallout from Trump’s draconian immigration crackdown is the surge in asylum seekers from the U.S. side, walking into Canada to make asylum and refugee claims in provinces such as Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec since Trump’s win. Some Canadian Border Patrol services, humanitarian and aid organizations and small towns are being overwhelmed by the number of undocumented people crossing over in fields, highways, and the wilderness as the U.S shuts its doors. On the plus side, after the Canada Immigration website crashed after the Trump win when Americans panicked and wanted to inquire how to immigrate to Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump met formally in February 2017 at the White House and issued a joint statement on Monday reaffirming the strong bonds between Canada and the U.S. “No two countries share deeper or broader relations than Canada and the United States.”
Optimists point out that as America’s biggest trading partner and with 32 U.S. states claiming Canada as their largest export market, the U.S. has more to lose if it shakes up its trade deal with Canada and NAFTA. Others take a more cautious point, arguing that Trump’s economic strategy could change as mercurially as the President statements and proclamations. Certain industries- particular Auto and manufacturing could be hit hard. With the longest undefended border in the world and as its biggest trading partner, everyone in Canada is watching to see how things would turn out.