Now that the dust from last Tuesday’s U.S. election is beginning to settle, it’s time to quickly get used to an idea that we all once thought was a joke: Donald Trump as President of the United States. Remember when that was laughable, resulting in months of hilarious Saturday Night Live material?
Not so much anymore.
Of the highest concern for Canadians when considering Trump as President is the economy and, by extension, trade. During his campaign over the last 18 months, Mr. Trump has made some very concerning (read: far left) statements; namely, tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as well as withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
According to the Toronto Star, Trump “campaigned on a pledge to force Canada and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA to provide greater benefits to U.S. businesses; if Mexico and Canada don’t agree on a new deal, Trump has promised to leave NAFTA completely.”
This would have an unprecedented effect on Canada’s economy, given that approximately $450 billion of goods crosses our border every single year.
David Spinney is President of Autus Inc., a boutique investment firm in London, Ontario. “Protectionism is a very dangerous thing for Canadians when it comes to the U.S. As our largest trading partner, not being able to trade freely and fairly with the U.S. will be extremely detrimental to our economy, in my opinion. With the Republicans controlling Congress in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the Presidency, this represents an opportunity for some of Mr. Trump’s protectionist views to become a reality. This is a major concern for Canadians as we head into the New Year.”
But before you start to panic, let’s look at a few significant points. Consider the change in discourse that Mr. Trump has exhibited since winning the election. During his victory speech, he did not spout the same kind of hate or extreme leftist views that he became famous for during his campaign. Then on Thursday, Mr. Trump met with President Obama, the latter telling the media that he was “encouraged by President-Elect Trump wanting to work with his team” on issues facing the U.S. So, there’s that.
It’s important to understand that although Mr. Trump is now the President-Elect, he did not win this election: his party did.
During the last eight years of Democratic party rule in the States, the Republicans have been working tirelessly to drum up support for a change of guard come 2016. And it worked.
But due to Mr. Trump’s extreme views and what can only be described as horrific behaviour (ears will never fail to perk up again when the term “locker room talk” is used in conversation), many Republican party members turned away and openly refused to support him.
Remember when John McCain and Sarah Palin were the scariest possibilities of who could lead America? John McCain no longer supports Mr. Trump (you know it’s bad when…).
If that same rift within the party continues as Mr. Trump takes office in January, it may influence how quickly and easily he can facilitate change. The fact is, Mr. Trump can say that he wants to rip up trade deals and walk away from international treaties but he needs to have friends in Congress to do it. At the moment, those friends may be hard to find.
“The Republican party does not agree with the extreme views of Donald Trump and will likely bring him closer to the center,” says Spinney.
So even if the TPP ends up dead or renegotiations with NAFTA don’t go as planned, it isn’t as if Mr. Trump can snap his fingers and make them disappear. Politics – especially American politics – just doesn’t work like that.
If you want to indulge a little of the rumour mill, there is also word that Mr. Trump’s running mate, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, will be the one calling the shots once they take office. Mr. Pence is the only one of this pair who has any political experience. He is currently Governor of Indiana (since 2013) and was Congressman a decade prior to that. Mr. Trump, of course, is the only President ever elected with no record of public service in either elected office or the military.
Despite the outrage currently being expressed by millions of Americans via protests, there may still be a silver lining to putting the term ‘President’ in front of Trump.
“We now have a government in the U.S. that has the power to get things done with control of the House, the Senate and the Presidency,” says Spinney. “The Republican party has traditionally been pro-growth and pro-business, which could be very good for markets.”
While that may be true, it’s what they get done that has everyone a little worried. Even aspects not directly related to the trade, such as the very real possibility of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, would have a huge effect on the American economy and the rest of the world.
At this point, all we can do is wait and see – and maybe hope for a few new skits from SNL.
Written by Jess Campbell