Bou­quet may be hid­ing thorns

Many in this coun­try will take com­fort in the no­tion that, for now, Canada is not on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hit list

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Chan­tal He­bert is a na­tional af­fairs with Torstar Syndicate Ser­vices.

In the spirit of Valen­tine’s Day, Don­ald Trump handed Justin Trudeau the rose he cov­eted on Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton. Like all roses, it comes with thorns. Only time will tell whether those thorns mat­ter more than the flower it­self.

Un­til then, the first faceto-face meet­ing be­tween the prime min­is­ter and his new coun­ter­part in the White House can be said to have gone about as well as could be ex­pected. That’s not just be­cause the two did not wres­tle each other to the ground over the course of not one but two hand­shakes.

Trudeau got what he most wanted in the shape of a state­ment straight from the horse’s mouth that when it comes to im­prov­ing the Amer­i­can econ­omy, Trump mostly sees trade with Canada as part of the so­lu­tion.

If the in­tense fed­eral lob­by­ing of the past few weeks has been about any­thing, it has been about driv­ing home the point that on trade, the United States and Canada ben­e­fit from be­ing un­der a com­mon um­brella.

That could be im­por­tant if and when NAFTA comes up for rene­go­ti­a­tion, as it could frame the U.S. out­look on the talks on less ad­ver­sar­ial lines than many in Canada feared.

Cana­di­ans with long mem­o­ries might re­flect on the irony that in an­other era, un­der a prime min­is­ter of the same last name, the in­ter­de­pen­dence of the two economies tended to be por­trayed as an ex­is­ten­tial prob­lem. Now it is an ideal to pre­serve and pro­tect with all the means at the dis­posal of a fed­eral gov­ern­ment. By a twist of elec­toral fate, Trudeau is the keeper of Brian Mul­roney’s free-trade legacy. But at what cost down the road?

Since Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, the prime min­is­ter had strived to not let ob­vi­ously deep dif­fer­ences on im­mi­gra­tion and refugee pol­icy poi­son the Canada/U.S. trade well. That was al­ways go­ing to be eas­ier to ac­com­plish at a dis­tance than in the phys­i­cal prox­im­ity of a joint news con­fer­ence. Con­fronted with the con­tra­dic­tions in their approaches Mon­day, the two lead­ers ob­served a tacit pact of non-ag­gres­sion.

Trudeau stuck to his guns on the no­tion that Syr­ian refugees are not by def­i­ni­tion a se­cu­rity risk with­out stick­ing those guns overtly in the face of the pres­i­dent. Even as Trump pro­moted his travel ban on cit­i­zens of seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries, he took a pass at an op­por­tu­nity to link the mea­sure to the se­cu­rity of the Canada/U.S. bor­der. That may be for an­other day. For if there are thorns in Mon­day’s bou­quet of words they would be found in the sec­tion of an oth­er­wise boil­er­plate joint com­mu­nique that recom­mits the two coun­tries to pur­su­ing the har­mo­niza­tion of their bor­der ser­vices.

A bill cur­rently mak­ing its way through Par­lia­ment would give U.S. bor­der agents new pow­ers to ques­tion, search and even de­tain Cana­dian cit­i­zens on Cana­dian soil.

Ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments al­ready al­low Amer­i­can bor­der of­fi­cials op­er­at­ing in­side Canada’s ma­jor air­ports un­der a long-stand­ing pre-clear­ance agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries to im­ple­ment what­ever ver­sion of Trump’s travel ban finds favour with the U.S. jus­tice sys­tem.

Then there is Canada’s des­ig­na­tion of the U.S. as a safe coun­try for refugee pur­poses, a mea­sure that pre­vents most peo­ple who land in the United States from ap­ply­ing for refugee sta­tus in this coun­try.

No one en­vis­aged a Trump­style travel ban at the time those mea­sures were put in place.

But if the pres­i­dent does stick with plans to se­lec­tively ban im­mi­grants, refugees and visi­tors to the U.S. on the ba­sis of their coun­try of ori­gin, it will be hard for Trudeau to con­tinue to look the other way and at the same time pre­tend that Canada is lead­ing by ex­am­ple by stick­ing to its prin­ci­ples.

In any event, for now, many in this coun­try – in par­tic­u­lar in cor­po­rate Canada – will take com­fort in the no­tion that Canada is not on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hit list.

For his first face-to-face meet­ing with his new Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Trudeau had brought along a gag­gle of se­nior cab­i­net min­is­ters and ad­vis­ers. Rarely has Canada had as much face time on a sin­gle day with as many mem­bers of a rookie Amer­i­can ad­min­is­tra­tion. It would not have hap­pened if Trump had not wanted to play along.

It might be best to savour the fra­grance of the rose while it lasts!

Chan­tal Hébert Na­tional Af­fairs

Trudeau

Trump

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