Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau Visits SFS to Discuss Canada-U.S. Trade Alliance

February 16, 2017
by Aislinn McNiece

On his recent trip to Washington, D.C., Canadian Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, visited SFS to speak about the economic partnership between Canada and the United States. Minister Morneau’s speech was his only public appearance on the trip, where he met with economic advisers from the White House and Congress.

Joel Hellman, Dean of the SFS, welcomed Minister Morneau to campus, noting the unique moment to be students and practitioners of international affairs. “We are addressing a great debate about some of the fundamental principles of the post-war political and economic order…We believe that Georgetown, given our history, given our location, and given our engagement on these issues, is well-placed to create a forum for these kinds of discussions,” said Dean Hellman.

In his remarks, Minister Morneau discussed the enduring political, economic, and social relationship between the United States and Canada.

“We’ve always had, in Canada, the privilege of watching up close what happens in the United States, and, as you know, we’ve built what is probably the most productive and enduring relationship that the world has ever seen. From our perspective, it’s really because we share much more than a border,” said Minister Morneau.

Included in that shared relationship, in addition to history, language, and other cultural mores, is the business relationship between Canada and the United States, which surpasses two billion U.S. dollars per day. In 2016 alone, $700 billion U.S. worth of products crossed the American-Canadian border in supply chain movements. Morneau detailed the production journey of an American-Canadian-made automobile, whose component parts, in this example, passed over the border at least five times.

The United States maintains a trade surplus with Canada in non-energy goods and in capital flows, which bolsters the U.S. dollar, according to Morneau. Additionally, approximately nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada. As Morneau said, “Canada is the biggest and best customer of the United States.”

While Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s administration is prioritizing the preservation of this relationship, during a conversation with Dean Hellman, Minister Morneau later added that “in any trade relationship there is the possibility for improvement.” Especially in regards to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement that includes Canada, the United States, and Mexico, Morneau explained that Canada’s goal is to ensure the “mutual understanding of advantages” of the Canadian-American trade relationship. Whether that is through NAFTA, the now abandoned Transpacific Trade Partnership (TTP) or any other potential agreement, Morneau said that this relationship is not one we should “take for granted.”

Furthermore, Minister Morneau argued that the Trump and Trudeau administrations want roughly the same thing: well-paying jobs and “fairness” for their domestic workers. In his role as Finance Minister, Morneau has spearheaded policies promoting “inclusive growth” in Canada, focusing on improving the quality of life and reducing economic anxieties of the Canadian middle class.

Through the mitigation of these fears, Morneau and the Trudeau administration hope to give Canadians confidence for the short-term and perspective for long-term growth, thus reducing any rising protectionist sentiments within Canada’s borders. These policies ideally will enable continued strong trading relationships for Canada, including the one between Canada and the United States.

“Interconnectedness is one of the reasons that [Canada and the U.S.] enjoy one of the most important, mutually beneficial relationships in the history of the world,” said Minister Morneau.

Minister Morneau has personally experienced this trading relationship in his career, as he led his family’s human resources company, Morneau Shepell, before being elected to Parliament representing Toronto in 2014. Before giving his public remarks, Minister Morneau spoke with a group of SFS students about these experiences in a private gathering hosted by Dean Hellman. Student questions focused on many of the same concerns Minister Morneau addressed in his later remarks, in addition to questions about his experience transitioning from the private sector to public service.

“I had the opportunity to build a business that was across Canada and also in the United States, so that gave me context for the differences [between work in the private and public sectors]. It also provides you with some sense of how to deal with people, in the case of managing people in my sense. But each path will be different. What I always say to young people thinking about what they should do to get to some eventual aspiration is find the thing that you’re most excited about. You’re going to work harder at what you’re excited about, you’re going to have a bigger impact, and that provides you with the next opportunity,” said Minister Morneau.