January 20, 2017 2:04 pm
Updated: January 20, 2017 5:56 pm

President Trump could pose ‘unprecedented’ challenges to Canada’s economy

WATCH ABOVE: Donald Trump's full inaugural address

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The world was watching Friday as President Donald Trump gave his inaugural address on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and he made one thing clear: from now on, American interests come first.

The protectionist rhetoric heard on the campaign trail which won the hearts and votes of many was the main theme of Trump’s inaugural address.

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READ MORE: Presidential inauguration 2017 by the numbers

Every decision on trade, taxes, and immigration will be made to benefit American workers and American families, Trump said.

“Protection will lead to prosperity and strength.”

Trump’s ideas reinforced the uncertainty Ottawa has been grappling with as our country’s biggest trading partner greets a new president; Trump has said the NAFTA trade deal will be negotiated, and TPP abandoned all together. On Friday the White House website was updated to reflect those intentions.

“President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA,” the website now states. “If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.”

In a statement Friday congratulating President Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to highlight Canada’s vital relationship with the U.S.

“Canada and the United States have built one of the closest relationships between any two countries in the world. This enduring partnership is essential to our shared prosperity and security.

READ MORE: Team Trudeau meeting with Team Trump as inauguration, doubts over trade, loom

“Together, we benefit from robust trade and investment ties, and integrated economies, that support millions of Canadian and American jobs,” Trudeau stated.

It will take more than a statement by Trudeau to sway Trump, said John J. Kirton, professor of political science at the Munk school of Global Affairs, in an email to Global News.

“The Trump presidency will pose challenges for Canada that are unprecedented,” said Kirton. “His plans for a border adjustment tax and renegotiating NAFTA will create damaging uncertainty, or worse.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump may force Canada to reconsider defence spending: Former Trudeau advisor

Canada must continue to position itself as a valuable ally, Kirton said, and that could mean some concessions.

“Canada is wisely emphasizing the ways it can work with the new administration,” said Kirton.

Kirton said that moving forward Trudeau must work with Trump on, “energy security and the Keystone pipeline, sharing more of the NATO and North American defence burden.”

While only time will tell how the Trump administration impacts trade, Canada’s competitiveness must be addressed, said Mathew Wilson, senior vice president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

“I think there needs to be a bigger conversation about the competitiveness landscape in Canada and what a Trump administration means for our domestic economy,” said Wilson.

READ MORE: Imposing tariffs on US goods likely to increase costs for Canadian consumers

Canada already struggles to compete with its neighbour to the south; while the U.S will be enjoying slashed corporate tax rates under Trump, Wilson said, Canada will be dealing with new carbon pricing and expanded payroll taxes.

“The very aggressive reforms they want to make to corporate taxation, the regulatory environment, the overall business environment in the U.S., really could put Canada at a massive competitive disadvantage.”

Canada wasn’t the only country in Trump’s crosshairs Friday.

While Trump thanked the Obamas for their gracious assistance in the peaceful transition of power, the gloves then came off as Trump took aim at Washington, and the establishment that has “protected itself” as jobs left the country and factories closed.

Trump’s speech came a day after a tweet from outgoing vice president Joe Biden proclaimed the creation of 15.8 million new jobs during the Obama administration.

Trump, who has called the NATO military alliance “obsolete,” and promised to build a border wall along Mexico, implied that borders will tighten and foreign aid efforts reduced.

“We’ve enriched other countries industries, defended other nations’ border while refusing to defend our own,” Trump stated.

While trillions were spent overseas, America’s infrastructure fell into disarray, Trump said. The wealth of the middle class was ripped from their homes, he stated, and redistributed across the world.

“We have made other nations rich while Americans get left behind.”

But moving forward, the president said, the government will be controlled by the people.

“Today has very special meaning. We are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you — the people.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s cabinet heavy on business experience, fairly light on public service

There has been fear since Trump’s election that the country will be left greatly divided by his presidency, particularly among minorities.

But Trump’s first speech as president, which he is said to have penned himself, ended with a note of unity.

“Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots,” Trump said. “We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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