Canada’s ambassador to the United States for much of Donald Trump’s presidency says Canada needs to prepare for a more isolationist and protectionist U.S. regardless of who wins the election in November.
“What you’ve got is a challenging situation down there where we need to be able to demonstrate to them that we are a reliable, good friend and good partner,” David MacNaughton said in an interview with Global News.
“What we did the last time was we spent a lot of time showing them how important we were from an economic point of view.”
Trump defeated Nikki Haley in the Republican New Hampshire primary Tuesday night with 54 per cent of the vote, putting him one step closer to securing the GOP nomination.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Trump brings a degree of “unpredictability” to relations with the U.S.
Regardless of who wins in November, MacNaughton stressed the importance of Canada selling its economic friendship by potentially being a source of critical minerals and hydroelectricity, but more importantly sharing how Canada can collaborate on American priorities.
“I think even more important this time is going to be to help them with some of the things that they’re most worried about, which is drugs coming into the United States, there is illegal migration, which is potential terrorism,” MacNaughton said.
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According to a Jan. 15 Angus Reid poll, 53 per cent of Canadian see a Biden victory as better for the Canadian economy, versus 18 per cent seeing a Trump victory as beneficial.
To prepare for the next American administration, Trudeau announced he’s tasked Trade Minister Mary Ng, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and current Ambassador Kirsten Hillman to lead a “Team Canada” approach to relations with the U.S.
MacNaughton says that often in these discussions Canada comes in with list of what it wants, but has a tendency to not listen to our biggest trading partner enough.
“It’s kind of like if you’re going out on a date and you spend all your time talking about yourself. It’ll probably be only your first and last date,” MacNaughton said.
“You can’t necessarily accommodate everything, but you need to pay attention to what their needs are and see what we can do to accommodate them.”
With the potential of Trump becoming president again, University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says Canada would be entering the next four years on a vastly different geopolitical stage than 2016.
“In international affairs, most countries see Canada as simply more or less an agent of or a geopolitical satellite of the United States,” Wiseman said.
“The U.S. is now in competition in a way that it wasn’t in the past with other powers that want to become major powers, and are more or less there. China is a major power economically. India is gaining power every day, politically and economically.”
With this in mind, Wiseman suggests a Trudeau-led government focus on building relations with more like-minded countries.
“Canada, in terms of its interests and outlook, especially under this Liberal government, has much more in common with Europe, with the European Union and with NATO,” Wiseman said.
“I think those ties should be strengthened.”
Over the last decade Canada has spent a great deal of time forging new free trade deals with Europe, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Even amid a potentially turbulent chapter in Canada-U.S. relations, MacNaughton stressed that they are still our biggest, closest trading partner and any change from that would not be without consequences.
“The reality is, unless we want to reduce our standard of living substantially for a period of time while we diversify other relationships, we better realize that they are our closest neighbor,” he said.
“While you may have differences of opinion with your best friend every once in a while, as we all do, the reality is that friends don’t cut and run when things get difficult.”
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