A trade war is the last thing Canada needs
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with Donald Trump Monday. According to a new poll commissioned for the Globe and Mail, most Canadians want him to stand up against the president’s aggressive America-first policies, even if it means getting into a trade war.
The Nanos poll found that 58 per cent of those surveyed would support a trade war with the U.S. if Trump slaps new tariffs on Canadian exports. Really? That’s tough talk. We wouldn’t question the research, but it does make us wonder if that majority of respondents fully understood what they’re supporting. A trade war with America would not be pretty. Canada would not fare well given how much more we need their business than they need ours, and given how thoroughly unpleasant it would be to find ourselves in Trump’s infamous Twitter feed.
It’s true that millions of American jobs and a lot of business — especially in border states that backed Trump — would also be caught in the fallout from a trade battle. But based on the sheer size of our economies, the stakes are higher for Canada than the U.S.
Fortunately, Trudeau won’t be governed by opinion polls, although it must give him some comfort to know that the same poll shows 57 per cent of respondents feel confident he and his government will do a good job representing Canadian interests in trade negotiations. Instead of going toe-to-toe with Trump, figuratively, Trudeau will no doubt maintain the same cautious and positive approach he has benefited from to date. It has served Canada well so far that he didn’t get into Trump-bashing when others did, instead maintaining an open hand and mind toward the incoming administration. That cannot have been easy to do given Trump’s ideology is anathema to Trudeau and most Canadians.
But business is business. Canada must maintain a constructive if not totally respectful relationship with the U.S. if at all possible. The very same people who voted to stand tough could be singing a very different tune if our exports are blocked or taxed and American import prices skyrocket due to penalties imposed by Canada in retaliation.
Make no mistake, that could happen. Intelligent speculation has it that Canada’s dairy marketing practices will be among those targeted by Americans as being protectionist. Guess what? They are. But if we didn’t have some protections in place and trade with the massive American dairy sector was wide open, what would become of our dairy farmers?
That’s just one example of the sort of delicate balance Trudeau and his government must strike. Canadians have said they have confidence in Trudeau. Now he and his government must live up to those high expectations.