Will the Trump administration view Canada as its 21st Century colony?
There are some politicians and pundits in Canada who believe that, despite President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial policy statements on trade, things will eventually settle down into “business as usual” with Canada. Others advocate a “wait and see” attitude.
However, both positions miss the point. The election of Trump is ushering in a new period where the US oligarchy is aggressively resetting old trade arrangements and bringing in new ones. This applies to the U.S. role in the world, but also to its relations with Canada and Mexico.
Far from “waiting to see” what a Trump administration will do, it is extremely important that Canadian politicians, business and labour organizations, and civil society as a whole, develop their own positions now and articulate them so as to not be caught off guard.
Various analysts are claiming that a Trump administration will not be targeting Canada regarding existing trade arrangements, but rather Mexico. As discussed in yesterday’s column (1), this is quite likely plain wrong and gives a false sense of security.
For example, former US senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was interviewed on CTV’s Question Period yesterday. Santorum has been a key advisor to Donald Trump and reportedly Trump based much of his election campaign policy on Santorum’s recent book: “Blue collar conservatives: Recommitting to an America that works.”
In the Question Period interview, Santorum also claimed that Trump was only worried about Mexico and not Canada in regards to NAFTA and other trade relations. And he further argued that Prime Minister Trudeau had given a huge advantage to Trump by “throwing a bone” to the US and agreeing to re-open NAFTA negotiations.
However, when digging down into Santorum’s comments, a much less rosy picture for Canada emerges. In regards to Trudeau’s proposed carbon tax, Santorum claims that this will make Canada “uncompetitive” and cause jobs to flow out of Canada and down to the US.
He also hints that there will be those in Michigan “who will talk about the relation between Canada and the US” and consider taking action so that manufacturing jobs “don’t go across the river” from the US to Canada.
In his most baldly aggressive statement, Santorum says: “Trust me, we (the US) are going to be aggressively going after jobs that are high tech and other types of manufacturing jobs and a lot of those are up in Canada.”
How will a Trump administration do this? Through a number of ways. One of them will likely be slashing corporate taxes so as to lure companies and investment from other countries. Another more controversial policy is to take punitive action against US based companies that outsource their operations to other countries.
This latter could be especially dicey for Canada and British Columbia. For example, there are many corporations that have operations in both Canada and the US, including forestry companies like Canfor, West Fraser and others. What if one of these forestry companies decides to close a mill in the US and move operations to Canada? Will it be punished by the Trump administration? Such measures could have a huge impact on forestry jobs and communities in Canada.
What will be the stand of our federal and provincial governments to such a move by the US? It is not a minor question to be worked out later. And there are many other serious questions like this to be considered.
It is clear that the new administration is going to aggressively try to take manufacturing and high tech jobs away from Canada using fair means and foul. So, the question arises: what do Santorum and Trump really want from Canada? How do they see Canada’s place in the Trump administration’s New World Order?
Again, Santorum exposed himself in a recent talk he gave to the Canada-American Business Council. He told the audience to look at the Trump presidency as “an opportunity, not a source of concern.” But how did he define Canada’s role? He stated that Trump “is dedicated to revitalizing the US manufacturing sector and that would be beneficial to the Canadian economy as the US will require natural resources from Canada.”
In other words, the Trump administration reduces Canada to a “hewer of wood and drawer of water” for US manufacturing, with the lowly status of a 19th century-style colony and resource warehouse. Does that, for example, mean that the US, besides trying to ruin Canadian manufacturing, will be exerting increased pressure to export more raw logs and water south “to make America great again”?
And there are many other possibly contentious issues. The Trump administration could have more surprises up its sleeve which need to be prepared for.
These are things we need to talk about now.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: email@example.com
- Ewart, Peter. “Is Canada in Trump’s crosshairs regarding trade?” 250 News. November 20, 2016. https://www.250news.com/2016/11/20/could-canada-be-the-main-target-of-trumps-trade-complaints/
- Santorum, Rick. “QP Podcast #170: Has Canada already lost on NAFTA talks with Trump?” CTV Question Period. November 20, 2016.
- Carson, Bruce. “The Morning Brief: Rick Santorum, interest rates, prospering in the Trump era.” NewsHubNation. November 17, 2016. http://newshubnation.com/VkyDx5LWG/The-Morning-Brief-Rick-Santorun-Interest-Rates-Prospering-in-the-Trump-Era