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Charting a path for Canada in a post-Trump global economy

Dec 3, 2020

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the first world leaders to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden once the results of the United States election became clear. This, of course, set into motion plans for how Canada should most effectively work with a new administration to the south.

A recent webinar hosted by the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, Ivey’s Ottawa Alumni Chapter and the Ivey Academy titled “A brave new world? The struggle for competitive advantage in a post-Trump global economy”, sought to tackle what a Biden / Harris government will mean for Canada’s national health and economic interests. In a conversation guided and moderated by senior writer for Maclean’s and Lawrence National Centre Fellow Paul Wells, panelists Perrin Beatty, PC OC (President and CEO of Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Lawrence National Centre Advisory Council member), Sandra Pupatello (President of Canadian International Avenues Ltd.) and Mark Warner (Principal of MAAW Law) thoughtfully sparred on topics such as evolving Canada-US domestic relations, Canada’s position in the global economy and keys to ensuring national competitiveness. 

Next-up in Canada / US relations

While a Donald Trump-led government upset the axis of Canada’s relationship by not acting as the traditional ally we are used to, transitioning to a Biden administration will not come without its challenges.

“Where I would issue a word of caution though for Canadians, is assuming that we simply will be moving from darkness to daylight, and that all of the problems we had under President Trump have gone away,” said Beatty. “It does not mean that just because President Trump has wrenched the Republican Party out of its traditional beliefs that somehow the Democrats have abandoned theirs.”

It’s expected Biden’s pre-existing relationship Canada will be beneficial and more likely to partner to solve global problems, domestic friction points such as the Keystone XL pipeline, buy-American policies and trade practices aren’t expected to simply subside.

Where Canada fits in the global economy

Given the United States’ recent perspective on foreign relations, international cooperation has suffered, and in many respects, fallen out of fashion. While Biden is most likely to shift their style of engagement, experts don’t expect him to completely ignore domestic skepticism for international institutions.

According to Warner, “one of the questions for the world community is going to have to be, in Europe and Canada and elsewhere, is what is the world prepared to give to get the Americans to re-engage with the international system.”

Of particular note to watch will be Canada and the international community’s role in managing the United States’ fractured relationship with China in the coming years.

Keys to success in a new era

COVID-19 has crippled the global economy, leading to an unprecedented slowdown in worldwide business. However, with signs of light starting to appear on the vaccine front, countries like Canada will need to be primed to compete.

While the session’s panelists noted Canada is blessed with a well-educated and talented workforce, they felt it critical that government create a more attractive investment climate with purposeful policies to meet our vast potential. 

Specifically, Pupatello emphasized the need to develop a rewarding tax environment for research and development. “Why doesn’t Canada, what no other country is talking about today, and that is become even more competitive on the tax front to be a competitive tax jurisdiction.”

Also, from a workforce perspective, it was noted that Canada cannot rely on the "bad" immigration policies of other countries, and it was time to be more proactive in attracting talents that the country needs to maintain its competitive edge in the global stage.