As Donald Trump makes his mark as the 45th president of the United States, Canadians are wondering how the leader of the free world and compulsive tweeter will impact Canada and the world’s most unique bilateral relationship.
The billionaire real estate mogul has promised to put America first, so he wants a better deal for the US or he’ll rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); he has pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership; and he is supporting a new border tax that could cripple the Canada-US supply chain.
We should be concerned that under his administration, we’ll see a resurgence of protectionist policies like Buy American, an import tax on vehicles not made in the US, more trade trouble over softwood lumber; and more pressure to end supply management, especially in the dairy industry – all part of potentially long list.
So it won’t be business as usual, but we must remain calm and hope for the best when it comes to trade with our American neighbo(u)rs. But expect uncertainty.
To quote former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld in response to the weapons of mass destruction debate in 2002:
“As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
What we do know about Canada and the US is we share the most unique and largest bilateral relationship in the world with two-way trade accounting for $690 billion or $2.4 billion each day.
We are America’s biggest customer. Last year we purchased US$338 billion in goods and services. That means we buy more from the US than any other nation including all of the 28 – soon to be 27 – countries in the European Union. We are also the top export destination for 35 US states.
Our supply chains are highly integrated with many industries, such as auto and food manufacturing, seeing input materials and the products crossing the border many times in their lifecycle before becoming finished products.
That’s why 9 million American jobs depend on free and fair trade with Canada. Screwing with that many jobs won’t make “America Great Again.”
In spite of the rhetoric, I’m optimistic Donald Trump will see the dollars and sense of the Canada-US relationship. It won’t be about walls, but building bridges that put both countries in a stronger economic position. So here’s an open letter to the new President of the United States (POTUS) in a medium and a language he understands, that will prep him for negotiations with his Canadian neighbour.
Dear President Trump,
Congratulations on becoming the 45th President of the United States. #POTUSisgreatverygreat
You’ve had an interesting first couple of weeks. As a resident of the country to your north – the one that won’t be getting a wall – I want to tell you what it means to be Canadian and point out the subtle differences between our two countries. I’ve created some suggested hashtags (in bold) and Tweets (in italics) for you to send out about Canada when you can’t think of anything better to say.
Mr. President, we are Canadian. Part of the true north strong and free. We have glowing hearts and stand on guard, for thee. No, Mr. President, there are no rockets’ red glare, no bombs bursting in air. #That’snotCanada.
We are a hard-working people with a pioneering spirit. The genesis of this great land is linked to a cordial “meeting” of our Fathers of Confederation on a little island known for Anne of Green Gables, red sand, potatoes and golf – I know you like golf. Our forefathers founded this country on peace, order and good government, but passed on the right to bear arms. Canadian history #POGG
We are large geographically yet small in numbers. Our great country spans from Signal Hill, Newfoundland, to Victoria, BC, a distance almost equal from Toronto to Shanghai, covering six time zones. That’s big. Very big. #Canadaismassivepiece
We live in places called Dildo and Climax, Paradise and Conception Bay, Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! and for our animal lovers, Moose Jaw and even Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. And yes, we know our neighbours. We even talk to one another. #OnlyinCanadaeh
We spell things with extra vowels, and we’re damn proud of it, because we prefer not take the easy route. #That’stheCanadianway
We have a tree leaf on our flag, but just not any leaf. The maple leaf is an icon for Canada’s liquid gold condiment that is delicious poured over pancakes. It also represents one of the worst droughts in professional sports — just saying. Le sirop d’erable s’il vous plait, as they say in Quebec. #GoLeafsgo
We’ve shed blood on battlefields in every major war and in every corner of the globe to defend freedom. We are warriors and peacekeepers. That Canadian flag on the epaulettes of our soldiers means safety and security in foreign lands. #don’tmesswithCanada #honestbroker #worldpeacekeeper
We are a mosaic, not a melting pot; our doors and arms are open to the world, regardless of colour, sexual preference and religion. We speak English, French, Newfoundlandese and numerous other languages from every corner of the globe that can be heard on any street corner in many major metropolitan centres. #tunderingjeezuz #nowalls #newbridges
We’ve given the world some great inventions, such as: the zipper; java; the light bulb (yes, invented here, Edison refined and commercialized it); insulin; the Wonderbra; and the BlackBerry, which started the smartphone revolution. But one of our least-known gifts to the world is James Bond. Ian Fleming’s dashing character is based on a Winnipeg hardware salesman turned spy during the Second World War. Our Canadian innovative spirit and putting our mark on making the world a better place. #shakennotstirred
We “pivot” between politics, weather and hockey in any conversation regardless of season, while waiting in line at any Tim’s for a double-double and Timbits. Part of the Canadian social fabric. #doubledouble
We only have three seasons, hockey, playoffs and summer. And we spend the summer months, also known as the off-season, debating the previous season’s hockey wins and losses. Canada’s game. Canada’s love. Canada’s soul. Canadian identity. #sowhattheUSwonthejuniors
We have our own bombastic, eccentric celebrity, who as it happens, is connected to hockey. Don Cherry is a former player and coach who helped make the Boston Bruins great again. And like someone else you admire, he makes off-the-wall, and sometimes outrageous statements. Grapes for PM. #Dropthegloves #diginthecorner
We work hard and play even harder. We think that 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) is t-shirt weather and a time to head to the lake. MAY two-four weekend – enough said. #Cdnmemorialdayeh
The busiest season for births can be traced to the nine months after hunting season as well as New Year’s Eve – me included. What we call “weathering” the Canadian climate or a Sudbury Saturday Night, thanks Stompin’ Tom, RIP. #cccoldwinters
When there’s an international crisis, we pitch in. Like when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre were destroyed, we opened our doors and hearts to Americans who were stranded for weeks in Lewisporte, Newfoundland and the Yukon. Helping our best friends, business partners and neighbours. #wearestrongertogether
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we have a young, handsome Prime Minister that has something in common with your Russian pal Vlad Putin – he likes to take off his shirt. #nicehairbuffTrudeau
Finally, a little perspective from a South American Ambassador to Canada who went out of her way to tell me:
“You are lucky to be Canadian. [Canada is] becoming a hot product around the world. Being Canadian in the eyes of the world is a good thing and the value of your stock is growing. You are good people – not just because you’re friendly; you pay your bills and a pleasure to do business with. You’re just nice. The world needs more Canadas. Now is your time.”
It is indeed our time, Mr. President. We want you to understand that making America great again has to include Canada.
A Canadian citizen with a desire to see North America prosper.
Jeff Brownlee served at a senior level in numerous federal government departments – including finance and security – and was a senior staffer for John Manley, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister from 2002 to 2003, who had responsibility for the Canada-US relationship after 9/11.