Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will speak up in defense of Muslims, immigration and feminism in talks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
Trudeau avoids direct critiques of Trump (although he strongly disagreed with the fear tactics and slander Trump used during his campaign ) instead pledging to work with any occupant of the White House. He confirmed early Thursday his officials have met with Trump’s team in a bid to boost trade ties.
Later that evening, however, Trudeau went further than usual in speaking about Trump during a town hall session in Belleville, Ont., as he sets out on a campaign-style national tour.
"Canada is a separate country from the United States and there are things we hold dear that the Americans haven’t prioritized," Trudeau said to cheers from a packed theater in the community about two hours east of Toronto.
"And I’m never going to shy away from standing up for what I believe in, whether it’s proclaiming loudly to the world that I am a feminist, whether it’s understanding that immigration is a source of strength for us and Muslim Canadians are an essential part of the success of our country today and into the future."
Trudeau said he purposefully had avoided commenting on the U.S. election because he did not know which candidate would win.
"And now that they’ve elected President-elect Trump, we will work with him in a constructive way," he said. "Every step of the way, our focus is on making sure that Canadian businesses, Canadians and their families have good jobs, have economic growth, have opportunities. And that is the lens from which I dealt with the possibility of this American election throughout."
During an event earlier in the day, Trudeau confirmed senior aides and Canada’s ambassador to Washington had held talks with Trump aides in their effort to preserve economic ties. He would not say if the Trump officials indicated their administration planned to proceed with a pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"Obviously Canadians expect us to have a constructive working relationship with the incoming administration and that is exactly what we are focused on doing," he said. He later added "there have been a broad range of discussions on the level of integration of our economies and how to move forward in ways that benefit the middle class that we both got elected to serve."
Earlier this week, Trudeau named a new foreign minister, promoting Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, who had led his cabinet committee on ties with the U.S., in a move seen as motivated by Trump’s looming inauguration.
Trump Team Signals Auto Border Tax Could Also Hit Canada
The Trump administration is signaling Canada could face the same retaliatory trade measures as Mexico, in what would be an even bigger disruption to automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
Asked whether an auto border tax could impact Canada, President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, told reporters their policy isn’t specific to any one country. “When a company that’s in the U.S. moves to a place, whether it’s Canada or Mexico, or any other country seeking to put U.S. workers at a disadvantage,” Spicer said on a conference call Friday, then Trump “is going to do everything he can to deter that.”
Any move to thwart imports from Canada would be a more severe impediment to the North American auto sector than sanctions against Mexico, since the industry’s links with the U.S.’s northern neighbor run deeper. Assembly in Canada, which along with the U.S. is a higher-cost producer than Mexico, is also focused on the more profitable and faster growing light-truck and sports vehicle segment of the market.
“Canada is building a lot of vehicles that are in demand,” said Kevin Tynan, a senior auto analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.
Back and Forth
Through October, the U.S. imported $37 billion worth of passenger cars from Canada last year, a 12 percent increase, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That compares with $19 billion in imports from Mexico, which have been on the decline.
Michigan-based automakers such as Ford Motor Co. often ship parts back and forth across the border to factories in Ontario, and made commitments to invest in Canada earlier this year while finishing union contract negotiations.
Border taxes would hurt both nations, according to Linda Hasenfratz, chief executive officer of Guelph, Ontario-based auto-parts maker Linamar Corp. “We are trying to be globally competitive” in North America against overseas rivals, she said Wednesday on Bloomberg TV Canada. The industry is “intertwined” with “parts going back across the border multiple times.”
The auto industry is global in nature and all vehicles contain a percentage of non-domestic content, Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Aaron Fowles said in an emailed statement. This type of tax will have an impact on every part and product that is imported to the U.S., which means that prices for all vehicle makes will increase, according to the statement.
While Canadian policy makers have already begun worrying how Trump policies will factor into their economic forecasts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has sought to get ahead of any potential trade disputes, pledging to work with the new administration and even renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. This week, he confirmed his officials have met with Trump’s team to boost trade ties. The Canadian government also doesn’t lose any opportunities to highlight that its trade with the U.S. is near balance.
The U.S. rang up a $9.1 billion merchandise trade deficit with Canada through November of last year, lagging the Mexican shortfall of $58.8 billion. Mexico has also moved ahead of Canada as a supplier of products to the U.S. in recent years on the strength of growing investments in auto factories there.
Up to now it’s worked, with the president-elect focusing most of his calls for fair trade on Mexico and China. Spicer’s comments represent the first major broadside from Trump’s office against Canada, which generates $541 billion worth of annual trade with the U.S.
“It’s not so much a target at one particular country or one particular industry,” Spicer said.
Earlier this week, Montreal-based National Bank Financial estimated a 10 percent tax on goods crossing the American border would knock 9 percent off the value of Canada’s exports there.
“We need to represent Canada, represent Canadians, represent our interests in all of our discussions around the world and that is exactly what we’ll look to do with the incoming administration,” Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters before Spicer spoke, when asked about the threat of a border tax