Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Biden-Harris: What it means for Canadian organizations

Photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are respectively President-elect and Vice President-elect, there is a lot of speculation about the transfer of power as the incumbent President Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge the results. Despite this uncertainty, it is likely that on January 20, 2021, at noon, Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. And Kamala Harris will become the first woman as Vice President, along with being the first VP of Black and South Asian descent.

The initial reactions to the Biden-Harris victory are relief and hope. Granted, there was no “blue” wave as Democrats lost some seats in the House of Representatives and have not (as of yet) captured the Senate. Biden got over 75 million votes (a record), but Trump received over 70 million. This was in no way a rout.

Read also: A new era of Canada-U.S. relations: Go beyond the standard bilateral assumptions

What can we expect from this change of government? It is likely that the tone will be different and that there will be new policy directions. Trump’s “America First” policy will give way to “America Together” as Biden believes in international organizations and multilateral forums to advance American values and interests. This will result in the U.S. assuming once again a leadership role in fighting pandemics, advancing economic change, working for racial equality policies, and dealing with climate change concerns.

There will be greater predictability, more inclusion and greater interaction with allies. All international organizations—NATO, the UN, the WHO, the WTO, G7, G20, Paris Agreement, etc.—will see a re-emergence of American leadership.

What about Canada-U.S. relations? We have a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico—USMCA—in place since July 1, which replaced NAFTA. This will not change under the Biden-Harris administration. Granted, the recent protectionist initiatives deployed by the Trump administration will not disappear overnight. Democrats and Biden believe in “Buy American” as much as Trump.

Here again, we can expect a change of tone under the new administration. No more diplomacy by tweets! Biden knows and respects Canada. His instinct will be in line with traditional diplomacy and relationship building.

We, in Canada, must be conscious that our networks and usual diplomacy must extend to our trade relations. Chambers of commerce, unions, and business associations across our common borders must talk to each other regularly. Likewise, Canadian Premiers, American Governors, Senators and elected representatives must dialogue, anticipate problems and issues, in order to be “partners in solutions”.

We are each other’s best partners. We share democratic values. We benefit from each other’s prosperity. Canada is the main export market for over 35 U.S. states. Over $2 billion in commercial transactions occur daily, and over 400,000 Canadians and Americans cross our common border daily.

Under the incoming administration, we should expect to reconnect with the words of President John F. Kennedy, who said while visiting the Canadian Parliament in May 1961:

“Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder. What unites us is far greater than what divides us.”