The Situation Room – American protectionism is in the air, and Trudeau should prepare

Mac Olsen
President Donald Trump continues his march to transform America and its place in the world – and Canada certainly has to pay attention.

On April 20, Trump painted a big bulls-eye on the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it “a disaster for our country.” This included taking aim at Canada’s dairy, lumber and energy industries.

“We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and farmers,” he said from the Oval Office. “And again, I want to also just mention, included in there is lumber – timber – and energy. So we’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that same day, tried to downplay fears and concerns about Trump’s anti-NAFTA stance.

“We are not going to overreact, we’re going to lay out the facts and we are going to have substantive conversations about how to improve the benefits for citizens on both sides of our borders,” he said in an interview featured on Global News.

What Trump is doing is not surprising, especially since he pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in January.

At that time, I applauded his decision to issue an executive order to permit the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built into the U.S. I’m still happy with that decision, because Alberta will get construction jobs and other benefits out of it.

It remains to be seen, however, what concessions Trump will be demanding from our petroleum industry.

If he expects tariffs or duties to be slapped onto our petroleum exports to the U.S., then all we have to down is turn off or slow down the tap.
Then we start looking for other markets for our petroleum products.

The same goes for our dairy and lumber exports. If Trump is going to play hard ball with these and other exports, then our federal government had better act accordingly.

Even if the data, statistics and evidence about Canada-U.S. trade show that things are more or less equal under NAFTA, Trump is determined to re-establish protectionism for American jobs and prosperity.

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was passed by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in 1994, I supported it and still do.

I thought that protectionist policies and sentiment would fall by the wayside in the U.S. after that.

However, given the lobbying of special interest groups in the U.S. now, and given that Trump is pursing his “buy American” and jobs-for-Americans agenda, this is the reality that Trudeau better be prepared to deal with.

Moreover, I can see global free trade – aka globalization – and the international governing systems coming apart at the seams in the years ahead. Britain is preparing to leave the European Union and Scotland is looking to hold a referendum to leave the United Kingdom.

Given these political forces, it’s a good possibility other members of the European Union will do the same.

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