Canada’s ambassador to Washington, Kirsten Hillman, often has little forewarning before a decision by the US President with potential international impact is made. However, prior to President Joe Biden’s signing of legislation designed to ensure US companies and workers maximize the benefits of American research and development, Hillman had been in the loop for close to two months.
“They wanted to talk about it,” Hillman shared, emphasizing that the US officials were keen to clarify that the initiative would not impact the vast number of bilateral collaborations occurring regularly between the two nations.
Throughout June, various discussions took place, including a definite assurance that the directive would not prevent a Canadian role in commercializing or manufacturing innovations resulting from these partnerships.
“They made that very clear to us and were very comfortable with us reiterating that publicly,” said Hillman, adding that the White House also promised to partner with their government to maintain the strong relationship, as the Executive Order was implemented.
Canada’s history of getting the White House to balance their interests has often been an uphill struggle. Yet, much has changed since early 2021, when Biden abruptly cancelled the contentious Keystone XL pipeline.
Presently, it appears that the interests of Canada are taken into consideration in policymaking, a change Hillman attributes to the embassy’s continued engagement efforts, and the goodwill cultivated during Biden’s belated visit to Ottawa in March.
However, this may be up for change if former president Donald Trump has his say. Last week, Trump penned a letter to the Wall Street Journal claiming the US was being exploited and promoted his plan to impose a 10 percent tariff on all foreign imports to restore America’s reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse.
Additionally, Trump has signaled his intent to override Biden’s climate change strategy and oppose the electric vehicles revolution, a crucial part of the current administration’s strategy where Canada has vested interests.
With Trump leading in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination and Biden’s approval ratings waning, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly hinted at an accelerated strategy in the event of Trump’s reelection.
According to Hillman, the plan involves ramping up the current rhetoric, focusing on individuals of political influence and the advisers they consult to establish mutual understanding and forge relationships that can weather election outcomes.
Hillman sees their mandate as ensuring that pertinent discussions on shared concerns like energy security, climate change, clean water, supply chains, and the fentanyl crisis continue unabated ahead of the election.
The goal is to establish a basis of mutual understanding and communication, which Hillman believes is unattainable if begun just six months before the election. The dialogue has to consistently flow, proving that the conversations and relationships built over that time are vital, she concludes.