My learned friend Richard Nimijean co-authored this article for Policy Options. – cPaul
The COVID crisis has made it clear that we need to examine our economic and geopolitical prospects as the “special relationship” comes to an end.
Donald Trump’s erratic management of the COVID-19 crisis has been overwhelmingly rejected by Canadians, who feel good about themselves and their leaders. The crisis has reinforced a belief in government for dealing with pressing issues. Values that inform the Canadian identity explain Canada’s different response. Whereas Trump has portrayed the virus as yet another kind of foreign invader, Canada’s chief public health officer has used the crisis to stress values of inclusion and diversity.
Canadians recoiled when Trump floated the idea of stationing troops near the Canadian border and tried to block PPE exports to Canada. Whereas Prime Minister Trudeau continued his strategy of never directly confronting the president, several premiers did not hesitate to criticize Trump.
Thus, we need to rethink the Canada-US relationship, a difficult task given the high degree of integration of our economic and security institutions. Canada’s fate, owing to decades of policy decisions, is inextricably linked to that of the United States. While Canada has benefitted from the relationship, it is in an increasingly unenviable position. Since the election of Trump, Canada has been squeezed by both China and the United States as they engage in their high-level conflict.
Trump’s “America First” policy hurts trustworthy allies including Canada as the US places its own security and interests above all else. Peter Navarro, Trump’s China hawk and chief architect of the US response to COVID-19, has quipped that no country – even an ally – would retaliate against America because its market is too large and too important. This bold prediction, based on US exceptionalism, is now being tested as America’s claims to global leadership are cast in doubt by its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Canada has gone to great lengths to not upset President Trump, even to the point of jeopardizing its own interests. Canadian interests and sovereignty were already being undermined before the crisis, as evidenced, for example, in the renegotiated Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which places caps on Canada’s auto sector and prevents Canada from engaging in free trade negotiations with China. With so much now at stake, can the shared institutions that mark our bilateral relationship function as intended once the first wave of the pandemic subsides?
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