With the arrival of Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Canada, real concerns arose about maintaining unity and friendship between America and its Western allies and members of the G7 (Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan).
Observers are particularly worried about the unexpected breakdown in relations between Washington and Ottawa. Since the end of World War II, American and Canadian citizens have slept quietly under the protection of the deeply integrated American and Canadian armies. Between the two countries runs the longest in the world (5500 miles) unguarded border.
When Trump introduced customs duties on Canadian steel and aluminum last month, the Canadian government was truly stunned. Even more striking was the motivation for Trump’s duties: the White House explained its move as a threat to national security. According to Canadian Secretary of Defense Harjit Sajan, this is an “absurd excuse.”
Canada lies between the United States and any potential military threat from the north, such as an air attack from Russia or North Korea. The United States and Canada have not only integrated armed forces, but also closely cooperating special services. The military of both countries is jointly responsible for the aerospace defense of the North American continent (NORAD).
“Import duties are a challenge to a long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said recently. In addition, he said, they offend the memory of thousands of Canadians who “died along with their American comrades in arms.”
In Canada, anti-globalists blocked the road that leads to the city of La Malbais. This is where the G7 Summit takes place. For an hour, the demonstrators held back the flow of cars, then the police unblocked the traffic. The incident did not affect the schedule of the G7 leaders.
Some experts fear that customs duties may adversely affect vital military ties. “If you see that your closest ally is no longer your friend and is taking punitive measures against you, you will also begin to rethink security relations,” said Kenneth Holland, former president of the Canadian Research Association in the USA
To understand the dangers threatening security relations between the two countries, it is important to understand their economic ties. Canada is the United States’ second largest trading partner after China and America’s largest agricultural market. While US trade with China dominates the headlines, Canada is a more important partner for most US states (to be precise, for 36).
The main industrial sectors of both countries, especially the automobile, are so integrated that company leaders have already begun to evaluate their supply chains in order to find out how import duties on goods crossing the US-Canada border can affect them.
American automobile companies “have established uninterrupted supply chains throughout Canada and the USA,” says Nick Anstett, director of consulting firm Albright Stonebridge Group. According to him, today from Windsor (Ontario) to Detroit (Michigan) there is “really one common development belt.”
Trump duties on steel and aluminum are seen by some international trade experts as an attempt to gain a powerful lever of pressure in the negotiations on NAFTA. Canada, Mexico and the United States are currently in extremely difficult negotiations on a new trade agreement.
It is difficult to call such tactics correct.
“Talking with a gun at a temple usually doesn’t bring a good result, especially when the talks are public,” said Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce for the George W. Bush Administration.
“The idea that we are some kind of threat to US national security is absurd in essence,” says David Perry, senior analyst at the Canadian Institute for Global Relations.
The Pentagon representative forwarded the question of possible consequences for bilateral security to the White House, where they said that the duties would have “zero consequences”. “I don’t think that this will in any way worsen our relations,” the official representative of the National Security Council said, since both countries are “too interconnected.”
Trump himself, it seems, is not very alarmed by the possible consequences: over the past 24 hours, he ridiculed Trudeau for his “incredible discontent”, threatened with new duties and proposed to re-include Russia in the G7.
Since coming to power, Trump has constantly demanded that the US allies spend more on defense. Last year, the Trudeau government announced an increase in its military spending, which was seen as a step towards the White House. The Canadian fleet also plans to increase its presence in the Pacific Ocean to coordinate with the US military the containment of China in the South China Sea.
“After the introduction of duties, all of this was in jeopardy,” says Kenneth Holland. “Why should Canada spend a lot of money, and then becomes the object of reproach?”