Nova Scotia

Donald Trump presidency may not endanger Canada-U.S. free trade

Removing the U.S. from free-trade agreements would be difficult to pull off says research fellow.

'Trade may be the least of our worries with a Trump presidency'

President-elect Donald Trump speaks at the New York Hilton Midtown early Wednesday morning after winning the U.S. election. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

A senior research fellow with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives doesn't believe U.S. president-elect Donald Trump will have much of an impact on trade between Canada and the United States.

That's despite comments from Donald Trump who said during his campaign for the presidency that he would rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement if elected.

"Trade may be the least of our worries with a Trump presidency," said Scott Sinclair with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

'The trade impacts may not be as dire as some people predicted'

The centre is an independent, left-leaning research institute concerned with issues of social, economic and environmental justice.

Most of Canada's free trade with the United States is "locked in through World Trade Organization rules," Sinclair told CBC's Information Morning.

There is debate around whether Trump could pull the U.S. out of NAFTA.

In June, CBC spoke with lawyers in international trade about this question. Some said as president Trump could simply remove the U.S. from NAFTA. Other lawyers said Congress would have to sign off on any departure from the agreement and point out Republicans, who have control of the House, have typically favoured free trade agreements. 

Sinclair said the trade impacts may "not be as dire" as some predict. More worrisome, he said, are Trump's promises around deregulation.

"The trade impacts may not be as dire as some people predicted and actually I would be more worried about Donald Trump's policies around climate change and deregulation," he said.

"Threats to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and the impact that could have on runaway global climate change."

Harped on trade to bring in supporters

Sinclair believes Trump's criticism of free-trade agreements may have helped him get the keys to the White House.

Trump harped on trade constantly, according to Sinclair, and appealed to blue collar workers who felt they had been left behind by changes in the economy and got little help from the federal government. 

"I think he exploited that to build a coalition ... to bring the so-called Reagan democrats back into the red Republican coalition." 

If Trump proceeds with the policies he's outlined he will actually hurt the blue collar workers who elected him, according to Sinclair.  

"Many of his policies around taxation and environment, cuts to public services will exacerbate inequality and harm blue collar workers even more than the trade policies that he's criticising. So it's a really incoherent critique." 

With files from Information Morning