Calgary

Canada needs to be louder on trade and energy, warns former ambassador

Coming into a Donald Trump presidency, Canada needs to remind the United States — loudly if necessary — we are its largest and most important trading partner, former ambassador Gary Doer told a sold-out Calgary Chamber of Commerce audience Thursday.

'We mention the fact Canada is the largest customer of goods and services coming from the United States.'

Former Canadian ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, spoke to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Coming into a Donald Trump presidency, Canada needs to remind the United States — loudly if necessary — we are its largest and most important trading partner, former ambassador Gary Doer told a sold-out Calgary Chamber of Commerce audience Thursday.

"We are dealing with a populist going into the White House and we've got to be as populist or more populist than he is," said Doer, who was Canada's ambassador in Washington from 2009 until March of this year. 

"I would recommend we don't talk about the percentage of the GDP… we mention the fact Canada is the largest customer of goods and services coming from the United States of any country in the world and we buy more goods and services from the United States than the whole European Union put together."

Building a pipeline to tidewater should also be at the top of Canada's to-do list, said Doer.

"I really believe it makes a lot of sense," he said.

"It's very consistent with what we're talking about doing with the United States, but we've got to get our own resources to our own ports to our own tidewater at the same time we advocate on behalf of projects."

During the hour-long event, Doer predicted Trump will "exceed expectations" as president,  a message the former Manitoba premier also imparted last week.

But there will likely be very different policy around energy and the environment in the U.S. under Trump compared to current President Barack Obama.

"There's no question that there's a different sheriff in town with president-elect Trump," he said.

Canada needs to be louder when it comes to trade issues with the U.S., said Doer. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"On energy, he has indicated very clearly he is going to be very pro-energy development in the United States and obviously that will mean a lot of infrastructure, a lot more jobs in those supply chains that exist in Canada and in particular the midwest of the United States."

That will lead to "more decisive decision making," said Doer on energy matters.

A leaked memo suggested the Trump transition team will be looking to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement — something current U.S. Ambassador David MacNaughton has indicated the Liberal government is open to.

That's another topic, Doer said. Canadians have to be louder about, saying the "trade debate has been rather one-sided."

"On NAFTA, I believe we have to do a better job as businesses letting employees know the benefits of trade," he said.

"When you add 100 employees to your company, you should say it's partly because of trade. When you go to a second shift, you should let everybody know it's partly because of the trade opportunities that have opened up."

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