Toronto

Why Donald Trump's presidency could hurt GTA businesses

Donald Trump’s shocking election win could be bad for business for some in the Greater Toronto Area if he follows through on his vow to exit NAFTA.

Furniture owner worried American buyers will adopt president's protectionist ways

Rena Hans, the owner of Camilla House Imports, is worried she may have to start paying duties and taxes to send her Canadian-made furniture to the U.S. market now that Donald Trump has been elected. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Donald Trump's shocking election win could be bad for business for some in the Greater Toronto Area.

At Camilla House Imports, a Mississauga-based furniture wholesaler that also sells to the U.S. market, owner Rena Hans is waiting to see what Trump will do in office. And she's worried.

Hans said her biggest concern is that Trump will follow through on his campaign promise to renegotiate and potentially exit the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would likely mean she'd have to pay taxes to sell her Canadian-made wooden tables and other products in the U.S.

Canada, for its part, is happy to renegotiate NAFTA, according to the ambassador to the United States.

There's another problem, too.

"Let's just be realistic, I am brown," Hans told CBC Toronto.

She said she's afraid her skin colour could cost her sales the next time she goes to trade shows in the U.S. now that Trump has been elected.

"He's allowed that xenophobia … because he is doing that," she said, adding she felt like crying as she watched the election results swing in Trump's favour.

Currently, Camilla House Imports does some 30 per cent of its business in the U.S. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)
  

Hans's 40-year-old company sells some 30 per cent of its products south of the border, including oversize tables built with Canadian wood popular with Americans with larger homes. Before NAFTA, which started in 1994, only about 10 per cent of the company's business was done in the U.S.

Hans said it may come down to whether or not American buyers are offended by the idea of buying goods from Canada.

"Are people going to become protectionist?" she said.

"We're all just in a state of shock that someone who is so anti-everything — anti-future — has gotten into power."

Auto industry also worried about NAFTA's future

Trump's election is also rattling Ontario's auto sector.

Flavio Volpe, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, is also concerned about NAFTA being repealed, and what that would mean for a business that routinely ships parts across the border.

"You can't make a car in Michigan without parts from Ontario and you can't make a car in Ontario without parts from Michigan, everyone knows that," Volpe said.

For now, his organization will keep an eye on Trump.

If the president-elect does move to repeal NAFTA, Volpe said his group will work with governments on both sides of the border to make sure Ontario's industry isn't damaged.

It's remains unclear how a Donald Trump presidency will affect the auto sector. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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