By David T. Jones on February 11, 2017

Washington, DC - On Monday, 13 February, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington.

The likelihood of a “bromance” equivalent to that between President Barak Obama and Trudeau is akin to anticipating icebergs in the Potomac.

However, the president and the prime minister have some points in common:  remarkable hair and wives more attractive than they.

Thus, we should not anticipate President Trump offering an official state visit to Trudeau (President Obama covered that base after denying former PM Harper the honor).  Nor should we anticipate that Trudeau will propose Trump visit Ottawa to give an official address to Parliament.  

There is a collage of neuralgic topics on President Trump’s mind:

Trade.  Reopening NAFTA is a baseline campaign commitment for President Trump.  He believes it to be one of the worst agreements we have ever ratified and vows to improve substantially such treaties.  Although more directed at Mexico and the belief that U.S. unemployment substantially derives from U.S. factories lured to Mexico, Canada is certainly in the gunsight as well.  One can see an attack on Canadian dairy and poultry restrictions on U.S. imports.  Likewise, Canadian subsidies for softwood lumber will be targeted.

Trudeau has a weak hand.  He can note the reality that it is easier to get into renegotiation of major agreements than to emerge satisfied. And that doubtlessly protracted negotiations will generate uncertainty and investor unease damaging economic development.  He can note the intense integration of U.S.-Canada industrial production benefiting both countries.  Trudeau might even suggest Canada would support tightening restrictions on Mexico (if only to deflect Trump’s concerns over Canada).

Security.  In both domestic and international security efforts, Trump sees Canada as wanting.  Trudeau’s de facto open door refugee admission policy begs the possibility of border-crossing terrorists.  Implicit Canadian indifference to U.S. importuning over securing the border is a never-ending issue.  Ottawa believes Uncle Sam is paranoid when we should only be neurotic.

More specifically, so far as military expenditures are concerned, Canada is the classic underperformer.  Ottawa is far below the 2 percent objective for NATO members; its naval shipbuilding program is in chaos, and its evasive failure to commit to F-35 purchase virtually a deliberate insult. Continued unwillingness to commit to defeating ISIS by employing serious forces (beyond a handful of Special Forces equivalents for “training” Iraqi Kurds) would directly reject Trump’s commitment to annihilate ISIS forthwith.  Obama carefully avoided such (justified) criticism, but Trump could hit this note hard.  

Energy.  This could be a bilateral positive—if Trudeau chooses correctly.  Trump has moved to revive the Keystone Pipeline.  Although he has endorsed Keystone, Trudeau’s commitment to any pipelines seems intellectual/political rather than visceral.  The Liberals owe nothing to Alberta politically as there are no Liberal MPs from the province, and environmentalists are heavyweights in Liberal circles while oil producers/refiners beg for crumbs. 

Next U.S. Ambassador.   The Twiterverse has identified former Alaska governor/VP candidate, Sarah Palin, as the prospective U.S. ambassador for Ottawa.  While probably a trial/lead balloon, Palin would be the first woman as U.S. ambassador to Canada—and certainly not afraid of the cold.  Perhaps you would see her on a dog sled heading from the Residence to the Embassy or at least ice skating on the Rideau Canal.


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