President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to security services directing them to defeat the Islamic State in the Oval Office at the White House on Jan. 28, 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)The bottom line, they say, is the absence of something very basic — paper. Trump's first week in the White House has done away with the usual formula of public administration. In the pre-Trump world, a foreign government would make an announcement — state its intent to do something — then the paper would follow. That usually meant a written, well-considered policy statement on the way forward, or a piece of legislation that was designed to get the job done. Canadian bureaucrats would then in turn draft a policy or a response. But their pens are down, sources say, because they have nothing tangible to analyze from the Americans.
Sticking to talking points
Meanwhile, Trudeau's officials needed to act swiftly to clarify what Trump's travel ban would mean for Canadians with dual citizenship. Would they be turned away at the border? Trudeau's National Security Adviser Daniel Jean and other officials reached out to their American counterparts, including Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for answers, Trudeau's spokeswoman Kate Purchase said late Saturday. "NSA Flynn confirmed that holders of Canadian passports, including dual citizens, will not be affected by the ban," Purchase said. That contradicted a statement earlier in the day from the U.S. State Department that said Canadians with dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be denied entry for the next three months along with citizens from those countries.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Several hundred people rally against a temporary travel ban signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in an executive order, during a protest in Hamtramck, Michigan on Jan. 29, 2017. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Stephen Schwarzman is the head of the president's Strategic and Policy Forum. (Photo: Canadian Press)On NAFTA, Trump threatened to tear up the deal prior to his election, but just days after his inauguration one of his senior economic advisers offered Canada reassurance. Stephen Schwarzman, the head of the president's Strategic and Policy Forum, said there was no need for Canada to be "enormously worried" because it is well regarded and will be in a good position should there be a NAFTA renegotiation. Canadian officials have signalled a willingness to keep the three-country deal alive; or to pursue a bilateral deal with the U.S. that would exclude Mexico. But their preference is a three-country agreement. "Definitely that's still Plan A," said another source.
"Canadian companies are affected by these supply chains. It becomes pretty cumbersome (to split up NAFTA)." But the official said everything depends on what Trump does next. "If we feel going it alone is going to give us a better deal, we have to look after Canadian interests," said the source. "But it would be disruptive." The internal government confusion is mirrored by the divisions among Canadian analysts over whether Trump can act alone on NAFTA or needs the support of U.S. Congress.
"If we feel going it alone is going to give us a better deal, we have to look after Canadian interests."
"The President likely has the legal authority to withdraw the U.S. from the NAFTA on his own," said a recent analysis by the Toronto law firm Bennett Jones. The firm added that he has "considerable latitude to pull the U.S. from the NAFTA with or without Congressional support." But another recent report, from the C.D. Howe Institute concluded, "the ultimate power to withdraw from NAFTA rests with the United States Congress, and not with the president."
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