Advertisement

Canada learned lessons from Donald Trump’s first term, ambassador says

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says Canada to remain the same as previous Trump term in office, should former president return in 2024'
Trudeau says Canada to remain the same as previous Trump term in office, should former president return in 2024
WATCH - Trudeau says Canada to remain the same as previous Trump term in office, should former president return in 2024 – Nov 30, 2022

It’s a truism in foreign-policy circles that the world learned some hard lessons from Donald Trump’s volatile first term as president.

But as the prospect of a second term looms, could it also be true that the notoriously stubborn Trump and his advisers left the White House with a better grasp of Canada’s relationship with – and importance to – the United States.

“Yeah, I think so – I do,” said Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s envoy in Washington.

Click to play video: 'What could Colorado’s disqualification of Trump from 2024 primary ballot mean for Republicans?'
What could Colorado’s disqualification of Trump from 2024 primary ballot mean for Republicans?

For starters, there was the arduous 18-month renegotiation of NAFTA, in which even America’s self-proclaimed champion dealmaker has long suggested Canada proved a more worthy adversary than he expected.

Story continues below advertisement

But Trump was also president in early 2020, when COVID-19 was beginning to flourish on North American soil, soon to blossom into a global crisis that showed the U.S. a thing or two about its largest trading partner.

“When we restricted movement on our border, it took less than a day for people to fully understand the implications,” Hillman said.

They promptly discovered just how much traffic, travel and commerce crossed the Canada-U.S. border each day, “and therefore, as a consequence, (came to) fully appreciate the degree to which we are integrated and mutually supportive.”

Hillman described daily conversations with senior members of Trump’s White House COVID-19 task force to talk about supply chains, vaccine development efforts and how to secure personal protective equipment.

Trump promptly imposed export restrictions on scarce commodities like gloves and surgical masks, but exempted both Canada and Mexico, because “they realized, ‘They need us, but we need them,'” she said.

“I’m not saying it’s front of mind, as it was obviously at the time, but it’s there – in a way that’s deeper than it was before.”

Click to play video: 'Trump disqualified from Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot in court ruling'
Trump disqualified from Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot in court ruling

That has given Canada something of a head start as it continues outreach efforts with former officials, U.S. lawmakers and others who might be expected to play a role in a second Donald Trump presidency.

Story continues below advertisement

Those efforts have been underway for a while now, said Hillman, who described a more robust policy and transition “apparatus” around Trump than there was in 2016.

“All of it is being developed in quite a systematic way, much more akin to what happens normally with other candidates and both parties,” she said.

“So we can access that, right? We can talk to those people – and we are talking to them, and will continue to – to understand the policy positions they are advocating for the potential Trump administration.”

Hillman’s primary responsibility, and preferred strategy, is best described as making sure decision-makers across the U.S. at every level of government grasp how Canada touches their lives, often in discreet and unheralded ways.

Click to play video: 'Americans don’t want Trump-Biden rematch for 2024 U.S. presidential elections: poll'
Americans don’t want Trump-Biden rematch for 2024 U.S. presidential elections: poll

One sign of that strategy working: the American Canadian Economy and Security caucus, a bilateral coalition of like-minded lawmakers unveiled this past summer by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Tex.).

Story continues below advertisement

It sprang up over the summer after Zaib Shaikh, Canada’s consul general in Los Angeles, pointed out that Amodei’s district alone was exporting nearly $1.5 billion a year north of the border, underpinning an estimated 12,000 U.S. jobs.

Click to play video: 'Europe reels as Geert Wilders, the ‘Dutch Donald Trump,’ wins Netherlands election'
Europe reels as Geert Wilders, the ‘Dutch Donald Trump,’ wins Netherlands election

Amodei immediately wanted to know more, including which of his fellow U.S. lawmakers and senators had comparable stakes in Canada. The caucus now comprises more than a dozen members, House and Senate, Republican and Democrat alike.

“We had a very successful year in raising the profile of the relationship and deepening the relationship,” Hillman said.

“And it’s coming at a really important time: to be in this place now, as we head into an election year in the United States, is a good position to be in.”

When talking to Team Trump, “what’s crucial is that we bring the Canadian perspective” to issues of myriad mutual interest, she said – trade, defence, transportation and agriculture, to name a few.

Story continues below advertisement

Hillman lingered over one example in particular – energy policy – that’s sure to be a dominant theme for a would-be president who has promised to “drill, drill, drill” on his first day back in the West Wing.

“‘Canada is, by far, the biggest and most secure energy supplier for the United States across all areas of energy production, and we will always be here for you,'” she said, describing one such hypothetical conversation.

“‘So as you’re thinking about how you’re going to refine your energy policies, remember, we are sort of hand-in-hand with you on that.'”

Sponsored content

AdChoices