The Trump Administration and Canada: Re-defining the ‘Special Relationship’

The Trump Administration and Canada: Re-defining the ‘Special Relationship’
Speaker: Professor Christopher Kirkey # State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburg
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Date and Time
22nd Feb 2019 13:00 - 22nd Feb 2019 14:30
Seminar Room 2, Chrsystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square

Most observers who seek to explain President Trump’s understanding of, and approach toward, American foreign policy principally seek out explanations that emphasize personal behavioural indicators, political calculations squarely focused on the core components of his conservative base, and his purported general lack of appetite for consuming and retaining foreign affairs.  Yet in the search for convincing explanations, what has too long been ignored as the principal force informing, shaping and ultimately facilitating Donald Trump’s general preferences and his specific policy decisions, is the world in which the president finds himself.  It should be no surprise that an American president – openly determined to question and at times refute core guiding principles, multilateral institutions, and international treaties that have underpinned the heart of Washington’s chosen path of international engagement since 1945 – would by 2016, be elected to office. It was frankly inevitable in the post-Cold War world that sooner rather than later, an American president would seek to challenge this framework.

What does this mean for Canada’s relationship with the United States?  How has Ottawa (mis)handled by far its most important international relationship?  The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pursued various strategies including an all-out diplomatic charm offensive to demonstrate the history and value of Canada-U.S. relations, to courting American state-level and regional political officials and business constituents, and more recently  seeking to re-orient Canada’s international engagement in new thematic and geographic directions.  Prevailing sentiment in Ottawa suggests that the best way to tactically manage the Canada-U.S relationship during President Trump’s tenure is, as a senior diplomat in Washington recently put it, “to be patient and wait for this to pass.”  This conference paper will explicitly consider Trump’s approach toward Canada, and Ottawa’s responses.