Seed World

To Fight the Trade War, Canada Must Look Past the Biden-Trump Battle

As tomorrow’s U.S. election nears, those of us involved in the seed world are looking for some sort of gauge as to what the next four years could bring under a Donald Trump versus a Joe Biden presidency.

Could Donald Trump put more tariffs in place should he win? If Joe Biden takes the White House, will he roll back the protectionist policies of the past four years? What about the U.S. push for mandatory country-of-original labelling? Could that soon become a reality?

All valid issues, for sure, but under Donald Trump the United States has broken just about every norm that could be broken with regard to trade — and even if he is defeated tomorrow, his presidency has changed America’s standing in the world, and the world order that once existed and which helped underpin Canada’s seed sector has shifted.

Nowhere is that more evident than the situation involved China’s approach to Canadian canola. The arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou at the Vancouver airport in 2018 caused ripples that reached far beyond the tech world. Many believe China’s decision to stop taking canola from some major Canadian suppliers was spurred by our country’s decision to arrest her.

For centuries, war has been fought on many fronts. The trade front is a major one. Today’s military technology — satellite-guided missiles, nuclear warheads — makes traditional kinds of armed conflict a thing of the past. If the Third World War is fought, it will look much different than the images we see of soldiers on the battlefield during the 1930s and 1940s.

With China flexing its economic muscle, we can expect future wars to look more like the fallout from the Meng Wanzhou fiasco. When you hit someone in their pocketbook, you’ve delivered a decisive blow and set an important example, and the decision China made with regard to Canadian canola was just that.

Regardless of who wins tomorrow’s election, trade wars are likely only going to intensify. Perhaps a Joe Biden presidency might mean a renewed commitment to good trade relations between the United States and Canada, but America is a nation divided. Should Donald Trump lose the election, the people who put him in power are not going to vanish. They will remain there, and they cannot be ignored.

Should Joe Biden become president, he will have to acknowledge those people if he has a hope of calming the division and rage that exists within the country’s electorate.

To adapt, Canada must take this opportunity to carefully choose a path that ensures it is not used as an example, but rather seen as a valuable trading partner that can form strategic relationships with the world’s major players.

—Zienkiewicz is editor for Germination