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What Donald J. Trump Means For Canadian Foreign Policy

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Across the world, a cacophony of condescension on one side, and disaffected rage on the other, has precipitated a global political realignment. Upon the embers of the American presidential race, president-elect Donald J. Trump has emerged victorious.

On paper, Republicans control the Congress, Senate and White House, Republican governors command a majority of state capitals, and Republicans are strong at local levels. This should not be confused for a sense of coherence, as the American conservative movement is experiencing deep ideological fissures on fundamental questions of openness to the world versus isolation.

The pressures on Canadian interests abroad will be significant, so long as the United States remains the guarantor of Canadian national security and the major partner in economic prosperity. So what does the U.S. election mean for Canada in the world?

In an essay for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's Inside Policy, I describe six major foreign policy issues following the inauguration of President Trump that will shape this new relationship between two very different governments:

The Canada-U.S. economic relationship: While the president-elect has been highly disciplined about NAFTA through the prism of Mexican pressures, any renegotiation will have significant impact on Canadian labour mobility and potentially softwood lumber. With an alignment between the White House and Congress at hand with respect to the Keystone XL pipeline, wider opportunities exist for continental energy security.

NATO and collective defence: More can and should be spent prudently on Canada's defence apparatus. But unlike other NATO partners, Canadian per capita contributions in blood and risk far exceed those of other allies. In dealing with the new administration, Canada can credibly and accurately define what sharing the burden actually involves, measuring sacrifice and impact alongside treasure and materiel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and China's rise: After the inauguration of President Trump, what is the future of shaping the economic order of Asia? Should the president-elect kill the deal, Canada will need to make a separate approach, using the TPP framework, to all the markets involved in the TPP, to secure individual, bilateral deals. Canadian negotiators should aim to pursue the paths of a renegotiated TPP and bilateral agreements concurrently and aggressively, as long as this uncertainty remains.

Engaging Russia: Ukraine, Syria and beyond: Both Prime Minister Trudeau and president-elect Trump share a spirit for a changed engagement with Moscow. This comes amidst two of the defining geopolitical issues of our times in which Russia's hand has undermined American power: Ukraine and Syria.

Iran: There are two very different understandings of the nature of the clerical regime in Tehran. One views it as a potential partner inching towards a rational and constructive engagement as part of the international community. The other views it as a belligerent, bent on hegemony, human rights violations, and nuclear ambitions. As Ottawa looks to normalize relations with Tehran, president-elect Trump has indicated he would shred the nuclear agreement.

Climate change and energy poverty: While Canada may benefit substantially from the Trump administration's energy policy, there is a wide gulf on climate change policy, and there is now a major challenge to the Trudeau government's climate agenda. The global carbon regime promoted by Trudeau is anathema to the president-elect, who has prioritized meaningful economic benefits for the vastly diminished American middle class. These Trump voters are deeply disaffected and disappointed with grand global ventures that deliver little locally. If Ottawa is to preserve and expand Canada's economic strength relative to the rest of the world, it will need to make the economic decisions around climate change, not the climate decisions around economic change.

The election in the United States represents a fundamental shift in how the world's most powerful nation will act towards major trade agreements, the world's security architecture and the American approach to the key challenges of our times. The long term consequences of how all this unfolds are vast and cannot be understated.

Canada will need to be more agile than ever if it is to be a strategic partner that informs these choices, and will require statesmanship that has a clear vision of where our country will stand in the world once the limits of American power are finally defined.

Each of these six areas is about making decisions whose effects will be understood in a generation, not necessarily in the next few years. The question isn't about what the world will look like in 2020; it's about Canada actively defining the agenda that shapes the international order in 2050.

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