The Cable

Canada Signals Tougher Stance with Trump on Trade

Canadians prefer a trade war to rolling over.


If the visit by Canada’s Foreign Minister’s to Washington is any indication, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be preparing to talk tough on trade when he finally meets with U.S. President Donald Trump.

In Washington to meet with her American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chrystia Freeland made clear Canada won’t roll over for Trump’s planned renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland, who was previously minister of international trade, said that the United States will not be the only party looking for a better deal in the event of a renegotiation. “It’s good to be good at playing defence, but the best defence is a strong offense. And Canada definitely will be and is good at taking strong offensive positions,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

She also said that Canada opposes new tariffs and vowed retaliation if any are slapped on imports. Canada is the largest export market for 35 of America’s 50 states. Trump has toyed with tariffs or a border tax on imports.

That’s not only a warning shot to Washington ahead of Trudeau’s meeting with Trump, which will take place at some point this month. It’s also likely to play well back home — a new Nanos poll shows 58 percent of Canadians would go to the mattresses if Trump’s administration put tariffs on Canadian exports.

As Nik Nanos told the Globe and Mail, “When Canadians see the type of leadership style from Donald Trump, they realize that the only way to respond to him is assertively and confidently, even if it means a trade war.”

Trudeau had previously said Canada was open to renegotiating NAFTA. But Freeland’s tougher rhetoric may show that they’re open to renegotiating because Canada sees an opportunity to get a better deal — or at least show the United States that Canada isn’t always maple syrup sweet.

Photo credit: THIERRY MONASSE/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a foreign affairs reporter at BuzzFeed. She was a staff writer at Foreign Policy from 2016-2018. @emilyctamkin

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