Border Communities Closely Watching Trump Canadian Trade Policies

Nov 11, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for his first 100 days include his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.   The United States’ largest trading partner has already initiated conversations with the newly elected leader about the importance of Canada to the U.S. economy.  People close to the border are watching closely.

In April, then-candidate Donald Trump made a stop in Plattsburgh, where he railed about the negative impact of trade deals.  He stood less than 30 miles from the U.S. Canada border in a region where the economy benefits from cross-border trade.  “You know what NAFTA did to your area. It's a disaster, okay? You don't want these guys folks.”

“Every time that Mr. Trump focused on NAFTA it was specifically with regard to Mexico and not Canada. And it was specifically with regard to concerns that American manufacturing jobs as a result of NAFTA had effectively been displaced.”

Christopher Kirkey is the Director of the Center for the Study of Canada at SUNY Plattsburgh. He noted that the Republican never unequivocally stated that NAFTA was dead, but rather he would look to renegotiate the pact.   “I don't think NAFTA is endangered at this point. I really think we'll see a renegotiation and a redefinition of the terms. I don't think as for Canada U.S. trade relations go they’re in any way imperiled at this point. I think Mr. Trump when he gets a good cold hard briefing on the degree of interdependence between the two economies I don't think there's any way that he'll look to meddle with that relationship.”

Canadian officials plan to make sure any actions work in their favor. Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom wrote in Friday’s edition that Canada shouldn’t worry about Trump’s plans, noting “Depending on how it’s done, getting rid of NAFTA could work for us.”   In Nova Scotia Thursday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s already told the president-elect Canada is willing to renegotiate NAFTA.   “I talked about how ah how important the relationship is and has been and that I look forward to continuing to work to promote Canadian interests and indeed opportunities for all as ah as we move forward as two countries that have a lot to do together. It was a brief call but ah but a strong beginning to what is going to be a constructive relationship.”

Former North Country Congressman Bill Owens now works on cross-border trade. The U.S.-Canada relationship going forward was among the topics he discussed in Calgary the night after Trump was elected. “What the Prime Minister, Trudeau, did yesterday was a very very good strategic move in indicating that Canada was prepared to negotiate the NAFTA agreement. There are always things that can be improved upon. And hopefully Mr. Trump will take the Canadian prime minister up on his offer. That would be the best outcome for us here in the North Country.”

Audio of Prime Minister Trudeau is courtesy of the Canadian Press and Toronto Star.