The health of the U.S. economy is crucial for Canada

Whoever wins the U.S. election on November 6, relations between Canada and its neighbour to the south will remain unique and close-knit, said the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, on October 10.


Jacobson was a special guest of Pierre Martin, Chair of American Political and Economic Studies and professor of political science. He spoke to about 100 Université de Montréal students gathered in a lecture hall at 3200 rue Jean-Brillant. The arrival of the Ambassador was made possible by Fulbright Canada.

The Ambassador pointed out that Canada and the United States are the largest trading partners in the world. Our exports to the U.S. totalled $41 billion last year, compared to $4 billion for China. Another significant fact is that energy is at the heart of our neighbour's imports: Canada provides 100% of its electricity, 85% of its natural gas, and 27% of its oil (compared to 12% from Saudi Arabia).

That being said, the health of the U.S. economy necessarily has an impact on trade between the two countries. In this regard, the solutions proposed by the presidential election candidates to revive the economy are diametrically opposed. “Both teams are light years away from each other,” said Jacobson. “Romney wants to dramatically reduce taxes and spending, and Obama is talking about a tax increase for the rich and a long-term restructuring of the economy.”

Jacobson is close to the president, for whom he worked during the 2008 election campaign, and then at the White House as head of hiring for the Oval Office. He has been ambassador in Ottawa for three years.

Jacobson reiterated that the fight for the presidency is extremely close, because “our country is divided in two, in almost equal parts, with little movement either way.” What could affect the campaign at this point? The economy, foreign policy, and the debates. On this last point, there is no doubt that Mitt Romney won the first face-to-face encounter, he said. On the other two points, the margin of manoeuvre for the candidates is quite narrow from now to and Election Day. Of course, a new set of statistics on unemployment in the United States will be published by November 6, but even though the numbers may affect the race, the candidates will not be able do much about it. Finally, an unexpected international crisis could change the course of things, but again, it would be out of U.S. control.

In foreign policy, Jacobson does not believe that Mitt Romney would differ greatly from the current president's positions. “He would no doubt be more aggressive towards North Korea, Syria, and Iran, and would probably stay a little longer in Afghanistan.” As for Canada? Romney would probably be more favourable to the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project than Obama has been.

Following the talk, the students asked questions that often focused on the financing of political parties. Indeed, following a U.S. Supreme Court judgment in 2010, no ceiling is imposed on individual donations made to political action committees, the so-called PACs, which are considered independent of political parties. But their status fools no one.

The U.S. ambassador believes that the payment of huge sums has had the effect of increasing voters' cynicism and turning them away from public affairs.


This text is a translation of an article originally published in French by Paule des Rivières


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