Opinion: Keep expectations low for Biden

America-first policy unlikely to change with new U.S. president

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President-elect Joe Biden is a welcomed addition to the White House, but don’t expect America to change over night.

United States President Donald Trump inflicted havoc on American trading partners and was the base of a deeply corrupted leadership that valued economic and personal gain over human life or common decency.

He bullied Canadians into renegotiating a trade deal, with dairy producers here losing out as a result.

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In July, after Trump openly mused about sending armed troops to the border and tried to stop much-needed medical supplies from arriving in Canada, I argued in this space that we should re-evaluate our relationship with our southern neighbours.

Calls for Canada to become more self-reliant have existed for decades and Trump’s actions led me to fully support Canada’s measures to become more resilient, like drastically increasing our food processing capacity, which has the added benefit of creating value to agri-food exports.

Despite Trump’s exit, Canada should continue to explore the so-called “Third Option” of seeking how to live “distinct from, but in harmony with” the U.S., an idea first proposed by former Canadian politician Mitchell Sharp in the 1970s.

He argued Canada should, “develop and strengthen the Canadian economy and other aspects of its national life and in the process reduce the present Canadian vulnerability.”

Even with Biden in the White House, Canada should diversify trade with other nations and, at the same time, increase its own self-sufficiency.

Restoring order to international trade can’t be a priority of a Biden presidency still fighting the pandemic — and even if it was, Americans will continue to look out for Americans first.

We shouldn’t expect Biden to immediately fix the appellant process at the World Trade Organization, for example. Nor should we expect him to offer a new-new-NAFTA with better terms for Canadian dairy producers, or try and jump into the Pacific Rim trade bloc, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.

While he has expressed an openness to multilateral trade, it won’t be his top priority. Some reports suggest he won’t have a trade team in place until three or four months after he takes office in January.

Trade deals usually take years to negotiate and a few more to put in place.

Despite losing the election, Trump was supported by millions of Americans who endorsed his destructive actions by casting a vote for him.

It’s still a realistic possibility that the world is again dealing with an unreliable southern trading partner four years from now.

No matter who the president is, American trade policy will still feature protectionism and still be aggressive.

That doesn’t disappear with Trump.

Biden, like Trump and Barack Obama before him, will aggressively use his power as the leader of the world’s largest economy to get the best possible outcomes for his country.

The incoming president will likely offer a bit more predictability, however.

He won’t disrupt world markets by a tweet, and is far more likely to approach the job with more decency than his predecessor. The rhetoric on wanting to keep international markets open is also a positive sign.

For that, he is a welcomed addition to the White House, but nobody should expect a drastic change in trade policy.

About the author


D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.



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