TORONTO — Canada’s government is preparing for the possibility that Donald Trump could reach the White House again and the “uncertainty” that would bring, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday at a Cabinet retreat.
Trudeau said that Trump “represents uncertainty. We don’t know exactly what he is going to do,” but he said that his government was able to manage Trump previously by showing that Canada and the U.S. can create economic growth on both sides of the border.
Trump is eyeing a win in New Hampshire’s Republican primary and his second straight victory in his quest for the 2024 GOP nomination after producing a commanding triumph in Iowa.
Trudeau’s Cabinet has been discussing the Nov. 7 presidential election at a retreat in Montreal and the prospect that Trump could return to the White House.
“We made it through the challenges represented by the Trump administration seven years ago, for four years, where we put forward the fact that Canada and the U.S. do best when we do it together,” Trudeau said.
Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., and a panel of experts were at the retreat to brief the Cabinet and prepare a strategy. Trudeau said that his industry and trade ministers will lead the “Team Canada approach” with the business community.
Flavio Volpe, president of Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association in Canada, participated in the discussion on Tuesday.
Trump called Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest” and attacked Canada’s vital trade when he was president. He threatened tariffs on cars and imposed them on steel. The unprecedented tone of attacks on one of Washington’s closest allies left a bitter taste, and most Canadians were relieved that Trump was defeated in 2020.
“Whether it was his attacks on farmers across Canada, whether it was his attacks on steel and aluminum workers, or whether it was his determination to tear up the free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, we were able to stand strong and renegotiate NAFTA,” Trudeau said. “That was difficult.”
Canada is one of the most trade-dependent countries in the world, and Trump’s move to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement and call for the imposition of a 25% tariff on the auto sector posed an existential threat. More than 75% of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., so preserving a free trade deal was critical, and the two countries, along with Mexico, eventually reached a new agreement.
Trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated 1.2 trillion Canadian dollars ($890 billion) in 2022. Each day, about 400,000 people cross the world’s longest international border and about 800,000 Canadians live in the U.S. There is close cooperation on defense, border security and law enforcement, and a vast overlap in culture, traditions and pastimes.
“What works with all American presidents is to demonstrate what is good for Canada is also is good for the United States and vice versa,” Trudeau said. “The integration of our economies, the partnerships we have in so many different areas end up being beneficial on both sides of the border.”