Midterm Results Leave Canadians Wary Over Fate of Trade Agreement

OTTAWA — Canadians will closely watch the fate of a newly negotiated trade pact, analysts said, after the American midterm elections brought Democrats to power in the House and injected a new element of uncertainty in trade relations.

Polls show that President Trump is widely unpopular among Canadians, experts noted, so the results may have given a measure of satisfaction to some.

“They’re going to be happy that this is a bit of a slap in the face of this president,” said Dane Rowlands, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.

But while many Canadians didn’t like Mr. Trump’s negotiating tactics and some aspects of the new trade accord, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, there is a broad consensus that it is better than not having a deal at all with the United States, Canada’s largest export market.

Just the possibility that the Democrats may stall its ratification in Congress could discourage potential investors in Canada, some fear.

“We’re going to see a reintroduction of uncertainty surrounding trade,” said Kim Richard Nossal, the director of the Center for International and Defense Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Professor Nossal is among those who expect that the Democrats will take every opportunity to thwart Mr. Trump’s agenda, an effort he believes will include stalling or blocking the new trade deal.

Professor Rowlands doesn’t share that view. While he believes that House Democrats will do their best to block the president, Professor Rowlands said he does not anticipate that the trade pact will become part of that effort.

“It’s not clear that the Democrats would want to die on that hill partly because approving it avoids the difficult question of what else to do,” Professor Rowlands said.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat based in Washington who is now vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said that because American unions are pleased with several parts of the U.S.M.C.A., the Democrats are not likely to block the agreement.

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Canadians will also closely watch the tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed this year on steel and aluminum exports to the United States.

Many Canadians were offended Mr. Trump had argued that the Canadian products were a threat to Americans’ national security. And while Mr. Trump made comments suggesting that the tariffs would be lifted once the previous trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was renegotiated, that has not happened.

Congress does not have direct control over tariffs, so it is unclear whether the Democrats could influence them.

But the change in congressional power could effect climate change policy and environmental law.

When Mr. Trudeau came to office in 2015, he made climate change one of his top priorities and swiftly moved to work with the Obama administration on the subject. Mr. Trump has since unwound many of those measures.

Mr. Trudeau is now working to keep Canada’s national carbon pricing program intact after some provinces refused to participate or withdrew from it. Critics argue that taxes on emissions from Canadian industries put them at a competitive disadvantage with their American counterparts, though Mr. Trudeau’s system makes allowances to prevent that.

It’s likely, Professor Rowlands said, that the House will fight any further environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration. Still, he said, he doubted it would be able to reverse the many significant changes it has made to date.

“The view here is that the House will be able to contain some of the things the administration has done that, from a Canadian perspective, have been a disaster,” he said.

Follow Ian Austen on Twitter: @ianrausten

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