When it comes to unifying catalysts, there’s nothing quite like a good presidential tirade. That appears to be a key take-away from the recent G7 summit.
As has been well documented, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s post-summit pronouncement that Canada won’t abide being pushed around by U.S. President Donald Trump over steel and aluminum tariffs drew a Twitter grenade from the president that was predictably long on personal invective and short on diplomacy. It galvanized traditional domestic political critics of the federal Liberals in support of Trudeau. Unified opposition to American bullying and concern over an erosion of the long-standing co-operative relationship between the two countries, perhaps, but blanket support of Trudeau and his government’s performance on the world’s economic stage? No.
The country he leads is America’s biggest customer, but America is also Canada’s largest trading partner. Therein lies the challenge for Trader Trudeau, because U.S. leadership is making it mandatory that Canada get on with cultivating trading partners elsewhere. And promoting sunny ways in the wider world is not always going to do it. While a recent national Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada survey shows that more Canadians are awakening to the economic potential of Asian countries like China and India (“Canadians Conflicted about Asia, Survey Suggests” – Business in Vancouver issue 1493; June 12–18), Canada does not have the leverage to impose its environmental, labour law and human rights values in trade deals with those economic giants.
The deterioration of political relationships with the volatile Trump administration might be a rallying cry for Canadians against American bullying, but this country’s economic future well-being depends more on rallying around increased productivity and innovation, more investment in the technology and infrastructure needed to get goods to all regions and a proactive pursuit of new markets.
Complacent dependence on the American market is no longer an option.