Post Trudeau's visit, Trump declares NAFTA will only be tweaked

USA makes for more than 75% of Canadian exports

The Dollar Business Bureau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on February 13, 2017, for the first time, visited Washington to meet the newly elected President of USA, Donald Trump. During a press conference post their meet at the White House, the two leaders affirmed their intent to continue the historically close alliance and strengthen trade as well as border security in the North American continent.

Evading much deliberation on huge underlying ideological differences concerning immigration, intake of refugees and cross-border trade, both the leaders chose to focus on the special bond that Canada and US have shared for long years in defence, counter-terrorism and trade.

"Thirty five US states, list Canada as their largest export market and our economies benefit from over $2 billion in two-way trade every single day. Millions of middle class jobs on both sides of the border depend on this crucial partnership," Trudeau said, alluding to the benefits of NAFTA for both the economies. 

Assuring his northern neighbour, Trump said that he'd only be tweaking NAFTA. He didn't miss the chance to put Mexico on the spot when he said, “It’s a much less severe situation than what’s taking place on the southern border.”

According to the US Census Bureau, US and Canada had a total trade of about $545 billion in goods in 2016 with a deficit of $11.2 billion for USA. The deficit has drastically fallen by more than half its value after 2014, before which, it hovered around $30 billion. Canada is largely dependent on US as it contributes more than 75% to Canadian exports. Any changes in NAFTA to restrict cross border trade could cause widespread disruption for the Canadian economy, 25% of whose GDP comes from trade with US. Most of Canada's oil exports are also directed at US, which is a crucial trade for Canada, the third largest oil producer in the world.

Trump and Trudeau spoke of the importance of women in the economy and the need to address barriers faced by them in business, especially women entrepreneurs. Women business leaders from US and Canada convened to hold a productive discussion to this end.

On being asked about the opposing policies for refugees, both Trump and Trudeau expressed very divergent views. While Trudeau said that Canada would continue to pursue policies of openness without compromising security, Trump, in his signature belligerent style said, "We don't want to have our country have the kinds of problems that you're witnessing taking place, not only here, but all over the world. We won't stand for it. We won't put up with it. We're just not going to let it happen."

While Trudeau welcomed about 40,000 Syrian refugees last year with open arms and showed solidarity for people stuck in war zones, Trump has banned citizens of seven Muslim nations from entering United States, through an executive order that got embroiled in litigation. On being questioned about America's hard stance on immigration, the Canadian Prime Minister said, "The last thing Canadians expect is for me to go and lecture another country on how they choose to govern themselves."

The Dollar Business Bureau - Feb 14, 2017 12:00 IST