Trump wants to sell drones
Aims to relax rules so Canada can buy them
Even as it is engaged in trade disputes with Canada, the Trump administration is moving ahead to remove barriers in the way of a U.S. firm wanting to sell America’s northern neighbour more than $1 billion worth of armed drones.
U.S. President Donald Trump aims to ease restrictions so American weapons can be sold to trusted allies and U.S. companies and workers profit from those deals.
But whether the Canadian government will be keen on such a purchase as it faces hard-line U.S. trade protectionist measures in other areas remains to be seen, analysts say.
The Canadian military had previously wanted to buy Predator drones but, according to Department of National Defence documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, U.S. security regulations have put such a deal at risk.
The U.S. government started reviewing the restrictions on drone sales to foreign nations several months ago. It is also looking at changes to a missile-control pact that would ease the sale of armed U.S. unmanned aircraft to various countries. There are plans to unveil the new rules by the end of the year.
Reuters reported Tuesday that Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand will be included in the list of favoured nations for which the Trump administration would fast-track a sale of drones.
The Liberal government has approved the Canadian Forces plan to acquire a fleet of armed unmanned aerial vehicles. That program is expected to cost more than $1 billion. Royal Canadian Air Force spokesman Maj. Scott Spurr has noted the military is still examining its options on drones. The Canadian Forces hopes to have a contract in place in 2022.
Trump’s initiative on drones is part of his Buy American policy. U.S. drone manufacturers have been facing competition from Israeli and Chinese defence firms and U.S. export regulations have worked against American companies.
But that Buy American regime is also seen by some analysts as being behind the punishing U.S. duties that companies from other nations are now facing.
The U.S. has imposed a 27-per-cent duty on Canadian lumber. It has also levied a 300-per-cent duty on Bombardier C-Series passenger aircraft after a complaint by Boeing.
Trump has threatened to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement if a new deal favourable to the U.S. isn’t reached. U.S. NAFTA trade negotiators are pushing hard-line protectionist proposals.
Defence analyst Martin Shadwick said a billion-dollar purchase of U.S. weaponry could face an uphill battle if the Trump administration continues with its hard line against Canadian firms. “The current strained Canada-U.S. trade relationship could start affecting defence purchases,” said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University in Toronto.
He noted the British government has questioned future military purchases from Boeing following the U.S. duties against Bombardier. Those duties could affect more than 2,000 jobs in the U.K. associated with the production of Bombardier C-Series planes.