Canada-U.S. Trade relationship won't be easier with Joe Biden

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The Canadian Press

Canada has had to endure nearly four years of President Donald Trump's presidency marked by the rewriting or shredding of international trade rules. But it might be a little premature to believe in the return of the heyday, under the rule of respect for the law, if Joe Biden ascends to the American presidency.

This warning is shared by many international trade scholars, analysts and diplomats who have watched Canadians endure repeated threats from the Republican President to their economic well-being.

The disruption of the economic relationship between the two countries was marked by threats from Mr. Trump to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), insults by the president during the renegotiation of the same agreement and the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum justified by alleged risks to national security.

Justin Trudeau's government has done everything to maintain a civilized attitude through these crises, but eventually gave in by calling the Trump administration the most protectionist government in America.

However, before the Trump era, that honor belonged to another group: America's Democrats.

Lower your expectations

By becoming president, Joe Biden would likely attempt to restore the stability, predictability and respect necessary for a good trading relationship between Canada and the United States, but he remains a Democrat and his party's economic interests are different from those of the United States. Canada, explains Lawrence Herman, a former diplomat now a lawyer specializing in international trade.

It won't be a complete return to sweetness and harmony, he warns.

If Joe Biden wins the presidential election, it will undoubtedly end the lingering threats against aluminum and steel, which Donald Trump imposed tariffs by decree in 2018.

Donald Trump against the light.

To take the reins of the White House, Joe Biden will however have to defeat the current president, Donald Trump. The election will take place on Tuesday, November 3, next week.

Photo: Getty Images / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Officially, Mr. Trump said he wanted to tackle poor quality Chinese steel that is flooding the American market through Canada, and which would endanger the American production of a metal essential to military equipment.

Except that the US trade representative appointed by Donald Trump was very clear that these tariffs were intended to put pressure on Canada to speed up negotiations on the new free trade agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet are publicly outraged that Canada is portrayed as a security threat by its longtime ally.

Do not expect favors

The fact remains that despite the respectful approach to commercial laws and customs that we expect from Joe Biden, he remains linked to an anti-free trade movement within his party, recalls Mr. Herman .

Senator Bernie Sanders, who was running for the Democratic nomination, sees the international trade regime as a blessing for big business and a bane for working people.

Mr Herman points out that Mr Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination, and the unions wield real influence within the Democratic Party.

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I don't want to underestimate the importance of just enjoying a much friendlier bilateral relationship and the recognition that Canada is an important state and a good friend to the United States, but when it comes to policy, do not expect favors, observes Meredith Lilly, holder of the Simon Reisman Chair in International Trade at Carleton University.

Joe Biden campaigns for protectionist buy local policies " Buy American That could prevent Canadian companies from bidding on public infrastructure contracts in states or municipalities.

According to the vice-president of the Canadian Institute of World Affairs, Colin Robertson, Canada has so far sidestepped the problem by asking the premiers and governors of US states to negotiate reciprocal deals piecemeal.

There is also the controversial Keystone XL project, a pipeline to transport oil from the oil sands from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obama blocked it. Donald Trump approved it. Joe Biden promises to end it.

It would be, I believe, devastating, particularly for Western Canada and the energy sector., said the former American Ambassador to Canada under George W. Bush, David Wilkins, during a conference given at the invitation of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

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