Trump, Canada and the Way Ahead


2016-11-16 By Danny Lam

S-Canada relations are one of the world’s strongest, most extensive and enduring partnerships between two major nations in the world. This historically close relationship is based on shared values, temperament, ideals, and outlook developed over two centuries of peace after the War of 1812,

After that war, Americans and Canadians made a conscious choice to become fast friends and close partners. This alliance was cemented in the 20th century, beginning with Great War and then WWII. Canada’s major contributions ensured that Canadians had an outsized influence on the formation of the post-war order that has endured to this day.

Liberal Internationalism, which advances the doctrine that liberal states intervene in other sovereign states in order to pursue liberal (democratic) object was the basis of the post-war order. It was dominated by the United States, a mostly benign hegemon that played an outsized role in maintenance of world peace, ensuring international security and enabled the expansion of world trade that enriched the world.

Canadians participated in the creation of this new world order with gusto. Beginning with Louis S. St. Laurent and Lester B. Pearson, Canadians became the key architects behind institutions like the United Nations and NATO, and led initiatives like establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1970.

Trade deals, like the US-Canada Auto Pact and NAFTA that improved access to the US market for Canadian manufactures and resources, formed the basis for Canadian prosperity – until recently.

But Liberal Internationalism is obsolete in the 21st Century, as Mercantilism was in the 18th Century.  

At the turn of the 21st century, Canadians began to lose their way. Successive Canadian governments pulled back from sponsoring major international initiatives that in the past, defined Canadians.

Formerly unthinkable moves, like Canada withdrawing from Kyoto Protocol obligationsdeep cuts to Canadian defence spending by successive governments, and Canada reneging on commitments and being tone deaf to public criticism, have come to define Canada of the 21stcentury in the eyes of the international community.

With this recent track record, is it a surprise that Canadians reacted with trepidation, fear and loathing to President Elect Trump’s mission to craft a new international order and strategy for the 21st Century?

America is in the early stages of re-imagining the international system and architecture of a new international order aimed at solving the new and emerging issues of the 21st century.

The Trump Administration’s concern with Canada will revolve around issues like border security, trade, domestic and international security, jobs, economic growth, and ultimately, alignment of foreign and defense policies as the US develops a new approach to the world.

The importance of these issues dwarf longstanding irritants like softwood timber tariffsagricultural trade, and Keystone XL.

Canadians cannot be passive players as the US transforms institutions like NAFTA, NATO, NORAD, Kyoto Protocol, etc. In order to have a respected and influential voice at the table, Canada must come to the table as a major contributor to the new architecture – as it did after WWII.

How can Canada contribute? A deficiency in the areas of security and defence can be turned to advantage as the sector presents ample opportunity for growth to quickly move towards the NATO spending goal of 2% GDP, which the US has long criticized Canada for not meeting.

There are many areas of domestic security in which Canadians have done well and can put more effort into developing further.

A small defense industrial base will allow Canada to rapidly build up a state-of-the-art dual-use technical capacity that, thus far, has been lagging behind the global standard.

This is particularly the case for new and emerging threats like ballistic missile defence against North Korean missiles; and, wide area, multi domain sensor networks for the Canadian Arctic.

Both of these offer opportunities for Canada to focus on the development of technologies that have broad military and civilian applications that will find markets in an insecure and shrinking world.

Long neglected and delayed programs like acquisition of replacement fighter aircraft and Canadian surface combatants can be accelerated; and importantly, Canada’s NATO commitments fully funded beginning 2017.

Rather than applying obsolete and ineffective seeking 100% offset contracts, Canada can use defence procurements to acquire favorable licenses and access to key technologies to stimulate Canadian industry.

With preferential access to tightly held US technologies and improved access to the US market under a revitalized NAFTA, Canada can potentially build and market truly innovative products.

The US is about to redefine itself in relation to the world, and Canada has a chance to return to the table as one of America’s closest allies and work together to craft the 21st century’s institutions.

Such an opportunity may not come again in our lifetime.

Editor’s Note: Just returning from Europe, one can not but notice the complete lack of anticipation of a Trump Administration.  One can ask what Europeans are paying their embassies to do if they can not at least fathom that in a two person race, one will win and one will not.

Apparently, Canada needs to take a good look at its Embassy as well, but since the Ambassador seems to have decided to become a seminar leader for “educating” the President Elect, one could ask who is going to be in place to actually understand the shift in Teutonic plates in global politics.

It is beyond belief but here is a report about the Ambassador’s recent musings:

Canada must put together a team to educate Donald Trump and other Americans on the benefits of free trade, the country’s ambassador to the United States said Wednesday.

Trade has become a “dirty” word south of the border and protectionists feel emboldened by the election of Trump, David MacNaughton told a business lunch crowd in Montreal.

President-elect Trump consistently criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, during the campaign.

It is unclear, however, what steps he will take to address discontent with the agreement once he takes office.

“This is about education,” MacNaughton said, adding nine million jobs in the U.S. directly depend on trade with Canada and 26 states have Canada as their leading trade partner.

He said business, labour and all the provinces must come together and show a common front as Trump takes office.

“We need to be able to put a team together that is broad-based and part of that will be the education not just of Donald Trump’s people but the American people — on a scale that we haven’t done before,” MacNaughton said. “I think we have to work harder at it.”

Canada’s softwood lumber trade negotiations with the U.S. will also likely become more difficult when Trump takes office, MacNaughton said.

Forests in Canada are managed by governments as opposed to the private sector like in the U.S., and therefore American producers have long complained that Canada is unfairly subsidizing its lumber products.

MacNaughton said the real issue is that the Americans don’t really care about Canada’s subsidies.

“They want to manage the trade,” he told reporters after his speech. “And they want to manage it to a market share instead of some open market system, even with tariffs.”