Trudeau says Trump represents ‘unpredictability’ for Canada

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Trump represents ‘unpredictability,’ Trudeau says as US election looms
WATCH: During a press conference in Montreal on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that no matter the result of the upcoming U.S. election, Canada will maintain its "well-integrated" approach with the U.S. — even if faced with the “unpredictability” of former president Donald Trump again – Jan 23, 2024

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is reviving the “Team Canada” approach to guide relations with the United States ahead of the possibility of a second Donald Trump presidency.

“Obviously, Mr. Trump represents a certain amount of unpredictability, but we will make sure we’re pulling together and preparing for whatever eventuality is,” Trudeau said at the cabinet retreat in Montreal.

The prime minister says he’s tasking Trade Minister Mary Ng and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne with collaborating with industry groups, civil society organizations and other levels of government in working on cross-border relations.

This is similar to the strategy Trudeau employed during Trump’s presidency, most famously around the North America free trade negotiation that resulted in the CUSMA agreement after Trump pledged to do away with NAFTA.

Trump has not yet secured the Republican presidential nomination. The field of candidates has been reduced to Trump and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out on Sunday and endorsed Trump.

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Trudeau and his cabinet will spend Wednesday talking about Canada-U.S. relations as the cabinet retreat concludes and engaging with experts on cross-border relations, which includes Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kirsten Hillman.

“Canada-U.S. relations are fundamental for the prosperity, wellbeing of Canadians. We know this is an important election year for the U.S.,” Trudeau said.

“We know there’s always challenges whenever there’s an American election. But as we have before, we’re going to be ready to deal with whatever gets tossed at us and make sure we’re defending Canadians’ interests and opportunities in this strong relationship.”

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On this front, Canada’s ambassador to the U. S., Kirsten Hillman, said that her work will continue as normal in meeting with American officials and business leaders but it is important to continue discussions with Canadians too.

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“There are literally millions of Canadians and Americans who interact together every day, whether it’s in business, whether it’s families who lived in the U.S., whether it’s our political, community, and they might hear different things than I do sitting in Washington,” Hillman said at the cabinet retreat in Montreal.

As for the prospect of a second Trump presidency, Hillman says that her objective is to focus on relationship building and fostering strong economic connections regardless of the politics of whomever occupies the White House.

“Say you’re in an agricultural community in the heartland of America, primarily Republican, right? But our farmers and our agriculture industry is going to have so much in common with them, and they are going to care about making sure that that relationship strong, [same as ]those who govern those communities, because it matters to those communities,” she said.

“I think approaching it in that way is essential for Canada because that’s what matters to us. And we need to meet them on the issues, not on the politics, which are their own.”

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Head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association Flavio Volpe also took part in the expert panel with cabinet in Montreal, and he said the questions and discussion was more candid than he anticipated.

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Like Trudeau, he stressed the need to be collaborative. He said this was especially true in the auto-sector with a large amount of cross-border manufacturing and increasing competition with China.

However, he cautioned a Trump presidency could throw a wrench in the assembly line with plans to introduce 10 per cent tariffs on international imports.

“I think everybody knows that he goes to the protectionist well very often. Where does Canada play in that? When we talk about American interests, it’s important that, that whether it’s Trump or Biden we always are ready to turn around and show everybody that the American interest is in large part the Canadian interest,” Volpe said.

“I think he’s playing to a base. But that base will have to pay that tariff.”

However, University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says he believes this announcement shows the Trudeau government is anxious about a second Trump presidency.

“The situation is changed. Has Trump changed? No. The difference is I don’t expect him to try to get rid of NAFTA. What I do expect, however, is that the Americans or the Trump administration is going to impose tariffs, restrictions, duties,” Wiseman said.

“Canada won’t get an exception, which it has in many, many other cases and continues to have under the Biden administration and earlier Republican and Democratic administrations.”

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Canada is not slated to have an election until fall 2025, assuming the government’s confidence and supply agreement with the NDP holds for the remainder of the term.

With Americans going to the polls on Nov. 5 to elect a president, Trudeau says that no matter who wins, the Canadian approach will be the same as with the first three presidents he’s worked with.

“The Canadian approach is the same: standing up for Canadian values and interests, looking for win-win situations and demonstrating that we can and will work together to create prosperity right across the continent,” Trudeau said.


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