The Trump Ef­fect: The Cana­dian Re­sponse

Policy - - In This Issue - Colin Robertson

Canada’s most im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship is, inar­guably, with the United States—a dy­namic at once sim­pli­fied and com­pli­cated by prox­im­ity. Since Jan­uary, 2017, it has been fur­ther com­pli­cated by the pres­i­dency of a man whose in­ter­ests do not rec­on­cile with con­ven­tional U.S. for­eign pol­icy and whose be­hav­iour bog­gles strate­gic diplo­macy. Veteran diplo­mat Colin Robertson writes that the key is to fo­cus on three ma­jor ob­jec­tives.

Amer­ica First. Buy Amer­i­can. Hire Amer­i­can. Na­tivist, pro­tec­tion­ist, and uni­lat­er­al­ist, Don­ald Trump is un­like any pres­i­dent in the his­tory of the United States. “The one that mat­ters is me,” he tells Fox News. “I’m the only one that mat­ters, be­cause when it comes to it, that’s what the pol­icy is go­ing to be.”

Pres­i­dent Trump’s cav­a­lier treat­ment of treaties, al­liances, trade pacts, and the mul­ti­lat­eral ar­chi­tec­ture has been be­yond merely dis­rup­tive. Sweep­ing

aside the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP), the Euro­pean trade deal, the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, with­draw­ing from UN­ESCO and the Global Pact on Mi­gra­tion, and stymy­ing dis­pute set­tle­ment at the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, all rep­re­sent a rad­i­cal de­par­ture from tra­di­tional U.S. pol­icy. In­stead of strength­en­ing the rules-based global or­der, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears set on its dis­mem­ber­ment.

The global op­er­at­ing sys­tem is in a state of shock. That which his Demo­crat and Re­pub­li­can pre­de­ces­sors prized and care­fully sus­tained mat­ters lit­tle, if at all, to Don­ald Trump.

The cur­rent dis­e­qui­lib­rium af­fects Canada, more than most other na­tions be­cause of our geo­graphic propin­quity and our pro­found links to the United States.

For Canada, it means a U.S. strat­egy with three ob­jec­tives:

1. Keep­ing the mil­i­tary al­liance in­tact

The U.S. still pos­sesses by far the most pow­er­ful global mil­i­tary ma­chine in all do­mains—land, sea, air, space and cy­ber. We ride first-class on a third-class fare and con­tri­bu­tion. The Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s new de­fence pol­icy will in­crease Cana­dian spend­ing and im­prove pro­cure­ment of new kit—fighter jets and war­ships. We have vis­i­bly in­creased our NATO con­tri­bu­tion through lead­er­ship of a bri­gade in Latvia and new com­mit­ments to air and sea sup­port. But, for our own pro­tec­tion, we should con­sider fully in­te­grat­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence into NORAD.

Cre­at­ing a se­cu­rity perime­ter that tracks the peo­ple and goods en­ter­ing North Amer­ica through the Smart Bor­der Ac­cord was essen­tial to win­ning US con­fi­dence to re­liev­ing the thick­ened bor­der af­ter 9-11. Pre­clear­ance is a vi­tal el­e­ment and the Cana­dian par­lia­ment has now joined Congress in the im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion that will en­able Cana­di­ans trav­el­ing by rail, sea and through Toronto’s Billy Bishop and Que­bec’s Jean Lesage air­ports to en­joy ex­pe­dited pas­sage. Now Canada needs to fol­low through on its com­mit­ment to en­able the Canada-US en­try-exit ini­tia­tive.

2. Keep­ing our pre­ferred trade and in­vest­ment ac­cess to the Amer­i­can mar­ket

Amer­ica is still the big­gest and most in­no­va­tive mar­ket in the world but we still have some work to do to help our­selves. U.S. tax re­form and a NAFTA-less trade regime would change our global com­pet­i­tive­ness and force us to re-ex­am­ine Cana­dian tax pol­icy.

En­ergy used to be our trump card but the U.S. per­cep­tion of grow­ing en­ergy self-suf­fi­ciency and in­de­pen­dence, fu­eled by Pres­i­dent Trump, even if un­true (they still need our en­ergy) means our ne­go­ti­at­ing hand is weak­ened. This should mean putting pri­or­ity on get­ting our re­sources to tide­wa­ter. Only when we can ac­cess world mar­kets will we get world prices and di­ver­sify our mar­ket. When you only have one mar­ket, it’s the buyer that sets the price. Gov­ern­ments, Con­ser­va­tive and Lib­eral, can’t seem to build pipelines to our coasts. It means we are a cap­tive sup­plier to the USA and they know it.

NAFTA is a test case for the global econ­omy. For the first time, a ma­jor de­vel­oped econ­omy is try­ing to rene­go­ti­ate a trade agree­ment by in­creas­ing trade bar­ri­ers in or­der to bal­ance its trade. It raises fundamental ques­tions. Will this lead to a new con­sen­sus on trade agree­ments or a col­lapse of the ne­go­ti­a­tions? Should it be trade agree­ments or should it be do­mes­tic tax and re­dis­tri­bu­tion pol­icy that de­liv­ers (or de­cides) so­cial pol­icy?

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment is onto some­thing with its pro­gres­sive trade agenda. There is dis­con­tent that the ben­e­fits of growth and trade are not equally shared and a grow­ing per­cep­tion that ben­e­fits ac­cu­mu­late with the 1 per­cent leav­ing the 99 per­cent in the cold.

The new pop­ulism has fu­eled not just Don­ald Trump but Brexit and rightwing move­ments like the Front Na­tional, Al­ter­na­tive für Deutsch­land and gov­ern­ments in Eastern Europe. Putting em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­ment and labour stan­dards, re­spect for gen­der and In­dige­nous rights, and the right of states to leg­is­late in the in­ter­est of health and safety de­fines the pro­gres­sive trade agenda. It’s a good thing but its ap­pli­ca­tion needs to be prag­matic and flex­i­ble. Nor should the per­fect be the en­emy of the good. We need to con­clude ne­go­ti­a­tions on the TPP, im­ple­ment the CETA with Europe and start trade talks with China. The only way for a mid­dle power like Canada to in­flu­ence the po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic evo­lu­tion in China, and to fur­ther our in­ter­ests in the Pa­cific, is to be at the ta­ble— not to stand back. There is a risk that op­por­tu­ni­ties will slip away that may not come around again for some time. It was fifty years ago that Pierre Trudeau sought coun­ter­weights to the U.S. through closer links with Ja­pan and Europe that we now have the po­ten­tial to fully re­al­ize.

3. Balanc­ing a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion with in­de­pen­dence of ac­tion on the in­ter­na­tional stage

There is con­sid­er­able risk of ran­cour

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s new de­fence pol­icy will in­crease Cana­dian spend­ing and im­prove pro­cure­ment of new kit—fighter jets and war­ships. We have vis­i­bly in­creased our NATO con­tri­bu­tion through lead­er­ship of a bri­gade in Latvia and new com­mit­ments to air and sea sup­port. But, for our own pro­tec­tion, we should con­sider fully in­te­grat­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence into NORAD.

over the grow­ing pol­icy dif­fer­ences with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on cli­mate, mi­gra­tion and the utility of mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. Push­ing back on Trump poli­cies that af­fect Canada, in­clud­ing stand­ing up for Cana­di­ans born in des­ig­nated Mus­lim na­tions who en­counter dif­fi­cul­ties en­ter­ing the U.S. will re­quire skill but it needs to be done. The temp­ta­tion for the gra­tu­itous that will gain short-term pop­u­lar ac­claim needs to be bal­anced against our strate­gic goals. We need to re­mem­ber and ap­ply one of Brian Mul­roney’s prin­ci­ples of Canada-U.S. re­la­tions: that we can dis­agree with­out be­ing dis­agree­able.

Canada, in league with other mid­dle and like-minded pow­ers who value rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment, hu­man rights, and freer trade, needs to again step up and re­assert our in­ter­ests in sus­tain­ing and pre­serv­ing the rules-based lib­eral in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. In the prac­ti­cal sense, this means work­ing in tan­dem with our Euro­pean and Pa­cific part­ners. It means find­ing niches—like pro­vid­ing a venue for talks on North Korea, or lead­ing in re­think­ing peace op­er­a­tions as we demon­strated through the Van­cou­ver Prin­ci­ples on the pre­ven­tion of the re­cruit­ment and use of child sol­diers. We should res­ur­rect and host the Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mits ini­ti­ated by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

As the Par­lia­men­tary Cen­tre cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary in 2018, we should prop­erly fund it and use it to pro­mote our demo­cratic val­ues abroad.

Re­sourc­ing also ap­plies to the Global Af­fairs de­part­ment that is now re­spon­si­ble for for­eign pol­icy, trade and de­vel­op­ment. The Trudeau gov­ern­ment has been lav­ish in its praise for the for­eign ser­vice but much less forth­com­ing in pro­vid­ing our diplo­mats with a budget that can en­able them meet the high ex­pec­ta­tions that the gov­ern­ment has set for it­self.

Canada, in league with other mid­dle and like-minded pow­ers who value rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment, hu­man rights, and freer trade, needs to again step up and re­assert our in­ter­ests in sus­tain­ing and pre­serv­ing the rules­based lib­eral in­ter­na­tional sys­tem.

To meet the Trump chal­lenge, the Trudeau gov­ern­ment re­made the cab­i­net and in­sti­tuted tac­ti­cal ini­tia­tives, putting the U.S. re­la­tion­ship at the top of its agenda.

The most im­por­tant was sus­tained and tar­geted out­reach, in­volv­ing all par­ties and all levels of gov­ern­ment, to re­mind Amer­i­cans that we are their big­gest ex­port mar­ket, a re­li­able ally and a se­cure source of en­ergy.

Dur­ing the first six months of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, Cana­dian cab­i­net mem­bers made 160 trips: meet­ing 14 cab­i­net mem­bers, al­most 200 law­mak­ers and more than 40 state gover­nors and lieu­tenant gover­nors.

Parsed down to the state and dis­trict level are fact sheets de­tail­ing the jobs cre­ated by Cana­dian trade and in­vest­ment. Should Trump re­scind NAFTA, tac­tics will change: the fact sheets will de­tail the costs of Cana­dian tar­iffs to Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers and con­sumers. Heinz ketchup, for ex­am­ple, would face an 8 per cent tar­iff that would make its Bri­tish coun­ter­parts from Tesco and Sal­is­bury the bet­ter buy. This tac­tic was ap­plied, in tan­dem with Mex­ico, dur­ing the coun­try-of-ori­gin la­belling dis­pute. It worked. It’s not the de­sired ap­proach be­cause con­sumers are the big losers, but it is what we would have to do.

Cul­tural diplo­macy is a key part of the out­reach strat­egy. An ef­fec­tive ex­am­ple is Justin Trudeau’s in­vi­ta­tion to Ivanka Trump and UN am­bas­sadors to the Broad­way hit Come from Away that cel­e­brates the wel­come Gander ex­tended to Amer­i­cans stranded there on 9-11. The ticket in­vest­ment—$29,391—was worth every penny in earned me­dia and pop­u­lar feed­back. As the New York Times wrote: “We are now in a mo­ment in which mil­lions of im­mi­grants are home­less and de­nied en­try to in­creas­ingly xeno­pho­bic na­tions, in­clud­ing the United States. A tale of an in­su­lar pop­u­lace that doesn’t think twice be­fore open­ing its arms to an in­ter­na­tional throng of strangers au­to­mat­i­cally ac­quires a nearu­topian nim­bus.”

Alis­tair Cooke, the renowned Bri­tish jour­nal­ist whose Letter from Amer­ica was broad­cast weekly for over half a cen­tury, ob­served that the U.S. is “a land of the most per­sis­tent ide­al­ism and the bland­est cyn­i­cism—the race is on between its deca­dence and its vi­tal­ity.”

In Don­ald Trump the pen­du­lum has swung to its deca­dent, cyn­i­cal ex­treme. Bret Stephens, for­merly of the Wall Street Jour­nal and now a New York Times colum­nist, re­cently ob­served that Trump “meets most of the cri­te­ria for nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der. And the fre­quently un­hinged and spas­modic tweets sug­gest a guy who isn’t in con­trol of him­self.” Pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys sug­gest that Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove of Don­ald Trump. The U.S. global im­age has de­clined steeply be­cause of him. But, he re­tains the sup­port of his base, although a re­cent Pew poll shows that sup­port has slipped to near 30 per cent.

Is Pres­i­dent Trump in de­cline? The GOP could lose its con­gres­sional ma­jori­ties in 2018. The Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion could re­sult in his res­ig­na­tion or im­peach­ment. But this is wish­ful thinking. We un­der­es­ti­mate Don­ald Trump at our peril. The U.S. econ­omy is boom­ing, un­em­ploy­ment is low and, in the short term, tax re­form prom­ises to put more dol­lars in vot­ers’ pock­ets. Mr. Trump will claim he has kept his prom­ises.

Canada gains when we play the role of ex­plainer or in­ter­preter of the U.S. to the rest of the world, es­pe­cially dur­ing Re­pub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions, as was the case dur­ing the years of Brian Mul­roney, Ron­ald Rea­gan and the first Ge­orge Bush, from 1984-93.

Man­age­ment of the re­la­tion­ship with the U.S. has be­come much more dif­fi­cult with Don­ald Trump but man­age Mr. Trump we must.

Canada’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships will al­ways be con­di­tioned by our re­la­tion­ship with the United States. We can­not change our ge­og­ra­phy, nor would we want to. The U.S. is not only our most im­por­tant ally and trad­ing part­ner, but when we lever­age per­sonal re­la­tions and our role as bridge or linch­pin, we also sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance our diplo­matic weight.

It was the U.S. that mus­cled us into the G7, in no small part be­cause suc­ces­sive trea­sury sec­re­taries, Ge­orge Shultz and then Bill Simon, knew that then Fi­nance Min­is­ter John Turner and Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Al­lan MacEachen were re­li­able al­lies and brought value to the ta­ble.

Canada gains when we play the role of ex­plainer or in­ter­preter of the U.S. to the rest of the world, es­pe­cially dur­ing Re­pub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions, as was the case dur­ing the years of Brian Mul­roney, Ron­ald Rea­gan and the first Ge­orge Bush, from 1984-93.

Canada needs to pur­sue a U.S. strat­egy that pro­tects our mil­i­tary al­liance and mit­i­gates dam­age to the com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ship. Through in­de­pen­dent poli­cies on cli­mate, mi­gra­tion and trade, and con­struc­tive in­ter­na­tion­al­ism, we must work to sus­tain the rules-based or­der that has given Canada its mid­dle power place and stand­ing.

Adam Scotti photo

Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau meets with Pres­i­dent Trump in the Oval Of­fice at the White House in Wash­ing­ton. Fe­bru­ary 13, 2017.

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