Philippe Couillard says Trump presidency brings economic instability, uncertainty

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard congratulated U.S. president-elect Donald Trump on his victory but added it has ushered in a period of economic instability and uncertainty.

President-elect Trump has called for renegotiation of free trade agreements

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Wednesday that the province will focus on maintaining exports to the U.S. but also continue to open up new markets for Quebec goods. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

It's been less than 24 hours since Donald Trump became United States president-elect, but Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says his election win is already being felt north of the border.  

Speaking to reporters while on his way to morning caucus, Couillard said Trump's victory, along with the entire election campaign, has ushered in a period of economic instability and uncertainty.

Throughout the campaign, Trump called for a renegotiation of free trade agreements to make them more favourable for U.S. producers.

"Exports are so critical for us," said Couillard. He added that many Quebec-based companies have close ties to the U.S., and he does not expect any sudden disruptions.

He said the province will focus on maintaining exports to the U.S. but also continue to open up new markets, such as Europe, for Quebec goods.

Impact on trade  

Trump's promise to renegotiate the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or cancel it all together has raised concern in Quebec.

Quebec's economy, in particular manufacturing, is heavily dependent on access to the U.S. market. According to a recent Desjardins Group economic study, roughly 70 per cent of the province's exports are destined for the U.S. market.

Quebec's largest employers association, the Conseil du Patronat, said that despite Trump's victory, Canada and the U.S. should remain strong trading partners. 

The 2006 softwood lumber agreement between the U.S. and Canada expired last October. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said negotiations with U.S. president-elect Trump are one of his concerns. (EACOM)

"The protectionist tendencies that have emerged over the last months of the election campaign concern us," said the group's president, Yves-Thomas Dorval, in a statement.

"The commercial partnership that Canada and the United States have shared for years, in part through NAFTA, is an example of strong synergy that benefits all of our business and citizens."

'Time is of the essence' for softwood lumber 

Couillard said he is most preoccupied by what impact a Trump presidency might have on the province's lumber industry, since negotiations between the U.S. and Canada are underway now.

That concern is shared by Éric Tétrault, president of the Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

He said that with a new government, negotiations will have to start back at square one, and the intricacies of Quebec's lumber industry will have to be explained once again.

"Time is of the essence for softwood lumber," said Tétrault. "It's entirely possible that we have more work to do for softwood lumber than we have for the whole [trade] agreement."

Not everyone believes the impact on trade under a Trump presidency will be so dramatic.

Some have said that it will be difficult for Trump to pull the plug on free trade because it is bound by World Trade Organization rules.