Big change is coming in Washington, and that could mean turning away from climate change action and other long-standing economic agreements. Donald Trump has repeatedly scoffed at the idea of human causation in climate change and said attempts to deal with it won’t be one of his priorities when he becomes President in January.
It’s one of the parts of the relationship between Canada and the United States that could be affected. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has made dealing with climate change a part of its program. Canada has signed the Paris Agreement that aims reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the global temperature increase under two degrees over levels from before the industrial age. The U.S. has signed too, but there are indications that could change with the new administration. Meanwhile, Trudeau wants to forge ahead and have Canada meet the Paris targets, including by putting a price on carbon.
Tim Gray, the executive director of the Canadian green group Environmental Defence, said that if the Trump administration were to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it would be “offside with almost every country in the world,” and “shocking for a global superpower” to make such a decision. Gray said shifting the economy towards environmental sustainability and producing sustainable technologies and products is “the biggest economic opportunity since the Industrial Revolution,” and American businesses would be losing the opportunity to be part of the effort if their government was not supportive. He added that Canada’s economy could benefit by attracting environmentally-focused industries that would have normally gone to the US.
Trump has also indicated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is up for renegotiation. In our region, the most common sign of that is a line of semi-trucks and trailers at major border crossings. The Trudeau government is a big supporter of free trade, just like every administration in both countries has been for 30 years. Before then, political parties in Canada had various views on the concept. The old Progressive Conservatives (PC) historically opposed free trade and the Liberals supported it. In the 1988 election, the issue was about free trade with the US. The PC’s supported it and the Liberals opposed it. But since the 1990s, both parties have been big supporters of NAFTA, and more recently, of free trade with the European Union. It isn’t clear when, how, or if NAFTA will be re-examined. However, the future of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is looking much more uncertain since the Trump election win.
It’s still early to know if Donald Trump’s talk about trade and the environment was mostly campaign bluster, or if he will try to implement major policy turnarounds. The year ahead is going to be an interesting time in Canada-U.S. relations.