Feds remind U.S. lawmakers of Canada’s trade importance

The United States will soon have a new president and the world does not know what to expect.

These days it seems as though a single tweet can be enough to send eyes rolling and trigger sharp rebukes from the international community.

So far, Canada has stayed out of Donald Trump’s line of fire. While the president-elect has repeatedly pointed his finger at Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. domestic and Japanese auto sector, he’s professed his love for Canada on more than one occasion.

Although Trump’s stated policies of building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, tearing up NAFTA, deporting illegal workers and imposing a border tax on many items built outside the U.S. still appear to be his priorities, none have been tied to severing the U.S.’s relationship with Canada.

On NAFTA, experts are divided about what Trump’s position might mean for Canada. Some argue Canada could benefit from a NAFTA renegotiation, insisting there are areas that need to be modernized. Others question how a renegotiation could happen without threatening sectors like Canada’s supply management industry.

Still, Ottawa is not taking chances.

Canadian media outlets have reported some of the prime minister’s top advisers have travelled to Washington to meet with Trump’s transition team, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is said to be a key player in Trump’s inner circle. The meetings were meant to avert a trade war with the U.S., Canada’s largest trading partner.

Trump isn’t the only American attracting Canadians’ attention. In early January, the day the 115th U.S. congress was sworn in, Prime Minister JustinTrudeau and Canadian ambassador David MacNaughton released a two minute video reminding American politicians Canada is a key player in the U.S. economy.

“Together we’ve built an economic relationship that supports jobs in every congressional district. We’re the largest international customer for goods and services made in the U.S.A.,” Trudeau said in the video.

“And not only do we buy from you, but we’re also part of the world’s most advanced economy. American and Canadian businesses work closely together to develop and sell our products to the world.”

In 2015, the U.S. traded about US$662.7 billion in goods and services with Canada, figures from the U.S. Trade Representative show. U.S. exports of agricultural products to Canada totalled $24 billion in 2015, making Canada the largest export market for American agriculture goods.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay doubled down on Canada’s trade pitch in a key note address to the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit of the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jan. 8. The agriculture industry, he stressed, is incredibly integrated, with Canadians and Americans making “great food together.”

“The U.S. is our closest friend, partner and most important economic relationship. Working together to identify opportunities for our farmers offers them the best opportunity to succeed, grow our economies and create jobs,” the minster said in an Agriculture Canada statement released after the speech.

MacAulay has opted to take a wait-and-see approach to the Trump presidency, promising to address challenges if and when they come.

“There’s a new government in place. The American people have spoken. Let’s just wait and see what develops before we jump to major conclusions,” he told reporters after the election.

The agriculture minister isn’t the only one waiting to see.

As of press time, Trump had not named his agriculture secretary — one of two vacancies left in his cabinet (Veteran’s Affairs is the other gap).

The delay has U.S. agricultural groups nervous, while north of the border farmers and industry wait to see which direction Trump plans to take.

Either way, it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

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