Charlie Neibergall Associated Press As the possibility of former President Donald Trump returning to the White House in 2024 approaches, could it also be that he and his advisors have left Washington with a better understanding of Canada's relationship with the United States? Pictured is Donald Trump at a caucus rally, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, in Iowa.
In foreign policy circles, it is common to hear that the world has learned lessons from Donald Trump's first term as president of the United States.
But as the possibility of the ex-president returning to the White House in 2024 looms, could it also be that Mr. Trump and his advisers have left Washington with a better understanding of Canada's relationship with the United States ?
“Yes, I think so,” says Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to Washington.
For starters, there was the arduous 18-month renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, during which even America's self-proclaimed champion negotiator long acknowledged that Canada had proven to be a fiercer adversary than expected.
But Mr. Trump was also president in early 2020, when COVID-19 began spreading in North America, shortly before it triggered a global crisis that allowed United States to learn a thing or two about its largest trading partner.
“When we restricted traffic at our border, it took less than a day for people [in the United States] to fully understand the consequences,” says Hillman. They quickly became aware of the amount of leisure and business travel that takes place every day at the Canada-U.S. border and, as a result, fully appreciated the degree of integration and mutual support between our two countries. »
At the start of the pandemic, Mr. Trump quickly imposed export restrictions on products like gloves and surgical masks, but exempted Canada and Mexico.
“[The Americans] understood that we needed them, but that they also needed us,” says Ms. Hillman.
This gave Canada a head start as it continues its outreach efforts to former officials, U.S. lawmakers and others who may play a role in a possible second Donald Trump presidency.
These efforts have been underway for some time, confirms Ms. Hillman, who describes a more robust political and transition “apparatus” around Mr. Trump than there was in 2016.< /p>
“All this is developed in a fairly systematic way, much closer to what normally happens with the other candidates and the two parties,” she analyzes.
“So this allows us to have access to them and talk to them and understand the policy positions that they are advocating for the potential Trump administration. »
Ms. Hillman's primary responsibility is to ensure that decision-makers across the United States, at all levels of government, understand how Canada affects their lives, often discreetly.
In talking with the Trump team, “what's crucial is that we bring the Canadian perspective” on countless issues of mutual interest, she explains, citing trade , defense, transportation and agriculture, to name a few.
Ms. Hillman focused on one example in particular: energy policy.
It's sure to be a dominant theme for a future president who has promised to “drill, drill, drill” from the first day he steps back into the West Wing.
“Canada is by far the largest and most secure energy supplier to the United States in all areas of energy production, and we will always be there,” says Ms. Hillman to about a hypothetical conversation she might have with an American counterpart.
“So when you're thinking about how you're going to refine your energy policies, remember that we're sort of hand in hand with you on this. »