Canada should take nationalist position with Trump administration: expert

Click to play video: 'Trump’s pick for commerce secretary could be a rough ride for Canada: analyst' Trump’s pick for commerce secretary could be a rough ride for Canada: analyst
WATCH: Most Canadians haven’t heard of Wilbur Ross, but Donald Trump’s pick for commerce secretary may become a challenge for Canada-U.S. relations says Chris Sands of Johns Hopkins University – Dec 4, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of commerce spells bad news for Canada, says Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

While still filling out his cabinet, last week Trump fingered Wilbur Ross to enforce trade disputes.

“[Ross is] someone who is very much a critic of how other governments manage things, who’s a low-tax, low-regulation person and who’s very aggressive in pushing U.S. business interests, very much America-first,” Sands told The West block’s Tom Clark. “To put him in charge of enforcement certainly suggests this could be a tough period for Canada-U.S. relations, in those areas where we really are in dispute.”

READ MORE: Trump nominates NAFTA critic Wilbur Ross to handle US Commerce post

With Trump in the White House, Canada can expect to butt heads with the United States on a number of issues including softwood lumber, military spending and value-added taxes, which Canadians know as GST.

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Sands’ advice for Canada during what might be a trying few years is to stand its ground.

“One of the things about Donald Trump that we’ve seen on display this entire campaign season is his personality – he’s a bit of a bully. He comes on strong and he’s used to dominating the room,” Sands said.

“I think it’s a big mistake with bullies to appear to cower or offer concessions, because they don’t respect you. And I think Canada is right to take a nationalist position and defend Canadian positions.”

WATCH: Donald Trump to leave businesses behind to focus on presidency

Click to play video: 'Donald Trump to leave businesses behind to focus on presidency' Donald Trump to leave businesses behind to focus on presidency
Donald Trump to leave businesses behind to focus on presidency – Nov 30, 2016

Ross is a vocal critic of NAFTA, which Trump has already said he will either reform or rip up, and of value-added taxes.

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READ MORE: 5 things to know about Canada’s softwood lumber trade war with US

While it’s important for Canada to not bend to Trump, Sands noted this country isn’t “target number one” for Trump and Ross; China and Mexico, or even the European Union, are likely higher on the list, he said.

And that can play to Canada’s advantage if a chunk of Ross and Trump’s time is spent fighting trade matters with other countries.

If Canada plays below the surface, manages to separate Trump’s rhetoric from reality and allows other states’ fights to distract the presidency, “I think Canada will navigate that somewhat well,” Sands said.

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