Our Relationship with the US is about getting things done for Canadians
No matter who is elected to the White House every four years, whether Republican or Democrat, the Government of Canada has only one job: to defend Canada’s interests.
Even though our former Conservative government is often accused of having a frosty relationship with the United States, the reality is that our relationship achieved results. We were able to accomplish many things that were priorities such as the Beyond the Border Action Plan to expedite legitimate trade and travel across the border, the 2009 Canada-United States Energy Dialogue to strengthen bilateral cooperation on the development of clean energy technologies, the expansion of the NEXUS program to make it easier for pre-approved individuals to cross the border, an agreement to build the Gordie Howe Bridge to increase the capacity of the Detroit-Windsor corridor and a resolution to the mandatory Country of Origin Labeling dispute which threatened our beef and pork producers.
Our previous Conservative government even negotiated the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement to finally bring stability to our forestry sector and negotiated an extension to that agreement with the Obama White House in 2012 (during a presidential election campaign I might add) to maintain that stability through to October of this year.
The Trudeau government similarly must be able to get results for Canadians and there are three items that it should immediately engage President-elect Trump on to ensure that Canada’s best interests are indeed being well-represented.
First, the Prime Minister must protect the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In the over two decades since it has come into force, Canada’s economy has become so intimately integrated with that of the United States that any substantial change to the agreement will be felt across many Canadian sectors. NAFTA has not been bad for Canada; quite the contrary, in fact. During the first fifteen years of the agreement, our manufacturing output increased by 62%, compared with only 23% for the fifteen years preceding the agreement. In total, NAFTA countries’ inter-nation trade is worth approximately $2.8 billion on a daily basis.
With our economy intrinsically reliant on access to the U.S. market, it was surprising that the renegotiation of NAFTA was the first thing Trudeau offered to President-elect Trump. Our industries rely on being able to do business with America and the uncertainty that has now been created by the Prime Minister will potentially affect the 550,000 auto sector jobs, 400,000 forestry jobs and 211,000 aerospace jobs and more that rely on stability in the North American market. Protecting NAFTA must be his goal, not offering its renegotiation.
Second, Trudeau and his Cabinet must aggressively pursue the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) in the U.S. The approval of KXL was a campaign promise of President-elect Trump and our own Prime Minister has also expressed his support for the project. It’s worth many good paying jobs for Canadians and further potential for our landlocked oil sector that is struggling to get its product to market, especially with delays being experienced by other pipeline projects such as Energy East and Northern Gateway. The approval of KXL, which all pertinent levels of government now currently support, is a win that is within the Prime Minister’s power to attain.
Third, Trudeau must engage with the new Trump Administration in a meaningful way on solving the softwood lumber dispute, even if it is anticipated to be a tough sell. This is, again, a jobs issue for Canadians as forestry employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians and is a primary industry in 650 communities across the country. The Liberals have so far offered excuses of American protectionism to Canadian forestry families for not getting a softwood lumber agreement done with President Obama, but protectionism in the United States is always a variable in negotiating with them. It is a poor excuse for failing to make softwood lumber a priority.
Canada’s relationship with the United States is about more than gala dinners at the White House: it’s about getting things done for Canadians and defending our interests to the President and to Congress. The former Conservative government was able to get results for Canadians with two different Presidents in the White House. Canadians shouldn’t expect anything less from Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government.