The Daily Courier


- Heather Scoffield’s national affairs column appears regularly.

No longer, as the three NAFTA countries spent two years of turmoil only to arrive at an agreement very similar to the one they started with.

When Trump made good on threats to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Canada’s exporters felt the pain. Steel and aluminum exports to the United States dropped to 10year lows while the tariffs were applied.

Now, though, our trade with the United States seems to be on pace, as strong as ever, pandemic effects aside.

NAFTA was renegotiat­ed, Canada’s access to American markets assured once again, and we have avoided further unpredicta­ble tariffs.

Still, to really appreciate the Trump effect on Canada’s economy, we need to look at our trading relationsh­ip with China.

The raging trade battle between the United States and China sideswiped Canada repeatedly, with China striking out at Canada’s meat and canola products in retaliatio­n for Canada’s detention of high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States.

The Meng dispute “has put a real freeze on Canada’s relations with China,” says Bob Wolfe, professor emeritus at Queen’s University.

China’s detention of two Canadians is only the “tip of the iceberg” in the price Canada has paid for getting caught in the crossfire between the United States and China, he said.

And we need to look at the stability of the global trading system, that giant and dynamic sandbox that Canadian companies play in every day.

Trump pulled out of the TransPacif­ic Partnershi­p, undermined the dispute settlement system of the World Trade Organizati­on and took a regular run at internatio­nal trade rules that Canadian business leans on to ensure a level playing field.

That instabilit­y has left many scars, driving Canadian companies to develop more flexibilit­y with their supply chains and customer base than in the pre-Trump era, economists say.

That’s costly, not just for individual businesses, but for Canada’s trade relationsh­ip with the United States over the long term, says House.

“A level of doubt has emerged about the United States,” he said.

There’s an upside to all this.

The flexibilit­y and resilience forced upon us by Trump sure comes in handy right now while we are dealing with the biggest recession in recent memory.

But there were less traumatic ways to learn that lesson.


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