Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Canada’s pragmatism regarding its super-sized neighbor
NUMATA Sadaaki / Emeritus Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

March 15, 2024
About the possibility of a second Trump administration, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada said in Montreal in mid-January, "It wasn't easy the first time and if there is a second time, it won't be easy either." Canada has tried to manage problems with its super-sized neighbor, ten times as large as Canada in population and economy, with pragmatic wisdom. Michael Kergin, Ambassador to the U.S. before and after 9.11, avows that, in Canada-U.S. relations, the smaller partner, always the most adversely affected by a mutual problem, must be the first to devise and argue the solution. (*)

In the wake of Trump’s election as President in 2016, Canada sent federal and provincial officials and leaders as “Team Canada” to fan out across American political and business sectors to make the case for continued cooperation between the two countries. Trump’s threat to withdraw from the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) in 2018 was followed by intense negotiations led by Foreign Minister Freeland, which ultimately yielded a trilateral deal, now called the Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) in Canada, or USMCA in the US. This preserved most of the NAFTA, including the dispute settlement mechanism that Canada insisted on retaining.

On January 24 this year, Trudeau announced the 'Team Canada' approach to the U.S. election, asking Industry Minister Champagne, International Trade Minister Ng, and Ambassador Hillman to the U.S. to collaborate with "businesses, entrepreneurs, organized labor, civil society groups, different orders of government, to make sure that we're ready to continue to benefit as Canadians from a strong relationship with the United States." Ambassador Hillman argued in a television interview that Canada must advocate for its interests regardless of who occupies the White House. It should focus on issues that people, Republican or Democrat, care about, such as jobs, security, prosperity, clean water, and energy security, as it reaches out to the wide spectrum of American people.

Trump’s proposed 10 percent tariff on imports into the US has renewed discussions in Canada about reducing the country’s dependence on the US by expanding trade outside North America. Even so, ensuring access to the US market will remain paramount. Ottawa is pursuing this goal by highlighting Canada’s importance as a supplier of ‘critical minerals’ – inputs for semiconductors, EV batteries, and other strategic sectors of the US economy.

Canada shares air defense with the U.S. through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). But the U.S. has complained that Canada, together with 21 other NATO allies, comes up short of NATO’s 2% of GDP spending target (it spent just 1.38% of GDP on defense in 2023)— and is the only country with no plan to get there. The U.S. pressure on Canada’s “delinquency” is likely to continue.

Japan, too, must advocate for its interests regardless of who occupies the White House. Its value to the U.S. lies as much in its role as its bilateral ally of the U.S. as the most significant player that the U.S. can rely on in the Indo-Pacific region. As Canada did in arguing its case, we should actively appeal this point to the wide spectrum of American people.

Japan has set for itself the goal of significantly increasing defense spending, over five years starting in FY2023, to a total of 43 trillion yen (about 310 billion US dollars) which will be 2% of GDP in FY2027, up from less than 1% so far. Under the vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” advocated by the late Prime Minister Abe, Japan has actively promoted the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India). It has been enhancing its diplomatic and security ties with the Republic of Korea and the Philippines as well as with Canada, Britain, France, and Germany. Beyond the ASEAN countries, Japan has been cultivating ties with the main actors in the G20 and the Global South.

The leaders of Japan and the U.S. should get to know each other well and develop the habit of speaking their minds. The Japanese Prime Minister should take advantage of every possible opportunity to present Japan’s case and argue the solution to whoever happens to be the occupant of the White House.

(*)"CANADA AMONG NATIONS 2009-2010" (McGill-Queen’s University)

Sadaaki Numata is a former ambassador to Canada.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭 / 日本英語交流連盟 名誉会長

2024年 3月 15日








(*)"CANADA AMONG NATIONS 2009-2010" (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Canada’s pragmatism regarding its super-sized neighbor