On Monday, Donald Trump released his administration’s National Security Strategy and spoke on the document which is supposed to put into policy the “America First” idea he campaigned on. And it sure does. The document recognizes Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a national security threat (although he never mentioned it in his speech), calls out North Korea some more, focuses on economic superiority and drops climate change altogether (previously listed as a national threat). Trump’s speech had the same general feel as those rallies back in the good ol’ summer of 2016 and carried a distinct populist message: America is going to be better than ever before and better than everyone else. Also, we once again saw Trump struggle to drink water.
Trump had legit issues with drinking water today. First, couldn’t get it up to his mouth with one hand, so then he has to two-hand it. Weird. pic.twitter.com/VKZCxS7aik
— Eric Schmeltzer (@JustSchmeltzer) December 18, 2017
So what does all this “America First” rhetoric mean for Canada? We weren’t mentioned specifically like North Korea and Russia (it’s good to not be the direct recipients of Trump’s wrath) but he did talk about “unfair trade practices” which means the North America Free Trade Agreement — something he’s talked about before. The full implications of Trump’s new strategy will be revealed in the coming years, but here’s what we know it means for Canada right off the bat.
We can’t rely on the U.S. like we used to
Canada is used to letting the U.S. take the lead at the U.N. and at other international assemblies. Up until this year, our two countries were fairly closely aligned when it came to values and national goals. We also rely on them pretty heavily for national defence.
With Trump’s new strategy, we won’t be able to look to the United States to lead on the international stage like before. Specifically on issues like climate change and green energy, the U.S. has completely flipped their position (Trump specifically called the Paris Climate Agreement “very expensive,” “unfair” and “job-killing”) so we can’t count on them to create or negotiate on environment-preserving international deals anymore.
NAFTA is likely on the chopping block
Canadian, American and Mexican negotiators began meeting in August to discuss NAFTA — in place since 1993 — because Trump thinks it unfairly disadvantages the U.S. Negotiators still haven’t made much progress but Trump has made comments about wanting to not only make it a Trump-certified “fair deal,” but maybe give the U.S. a discernible advantage over Canada and Mexico. While it’s unlikely that Canada will agree to a deal that will hurt the country, the U.S. knows how valuable they are to our economy. Trump has the power to blow up the whole deal, leaving Canada and Mexico with nothing to work with.
A bi-lateral trade deal is more likely
Arnd Jurgensen, political science professor at the University of Toronto, suggests that Trump’s position on trade likely means the U.S. will favour bi-lateral deals over multi-lateral ones. The president has said previously that it might be necessary to completely scrap NAFTA and pen deals with Canada and Mexico separately — which would give them more bargaining power. As far as we know, a bi-lateral agreement hasn’t been officially discussed between our two countries, but it’s something that we may come to in the coming years.
Canada is in an okay position
That “America First” stuff feels pretty intimidating for anyone who doesn’t call themselves a red-blooded American, but Canada has a relatively healthy relationship with the U.S. and that will be beneficial for us. Our close geographical and economic ties with the country mean it’s important to get along with us and while it’s hard to tell how much Donald Trump respects Justin Trudeau, the PM has said he will remain cordial but firm with the president. That’s likely the best strategy for dealing with The Donald so as long as Trudeau is able to pull it off, we’ll make it through these next three years okay.