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The importance of the U.S. Presidential Election for Canadian organizations

Every four years a presidential election takes place in the United States on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. On November 3, the American electorate will decide between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. It is no surprise that every election gets billed as the most important ever. This said, there is no doubt that this election is most significant as it takes place with the backdrop of a health pandemic and an economic recession. Unlike the 1918 pandemic which occurred at the end of World War I, the United States are now without doubt the major superpower in the world.

Read our post-election analysis: Biden-Harris: What it means for Canadian organizations

This election is also taking place with racial tensions unseen since the 1960s. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a major force especially since the murder of African American George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last May.

At stake is not only the presidency but also the control of the Senate. The House of Representatives will in all likelihood remain in the hands of the Democratic Party.

Rarely have Americans been so polarized and divided on the eve of an election. Some attribute the current climate to the governing style of the current incumbent Donald Trump. It is fair to say that while Trump contrasts with his predecessors in terms of style and rhetoric, division in America is not new. The mix of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the economy has only made matters worse. Unemployment is high and poverty levels are increasing dramatically.

The campaign itself has deepened the various conflicts, whether they be economic or social. The Trump administration has been highly criticized for its handling of the pandemic and the polls reflect this. It is challenger Biden’s strategy to make this election a referendum about the Trump administration and the need to remove Trump from the White House. With the U.S. representing 4% of the world’s population but having 20% of COVID-19 cases and deaths, Joe Biden has a case.

Trump, on the hand, claims that he is the only candidate able to return America to the level of the “the greatest economy ever in its history”. He mercilessly attacks Biden regarding his age (even though they are only 4 years apart) and what he calls “a lack of energy”. With unemployment now at 8%, alarming long-term unemployment prospects being predicted in some key sectors of the economy, and a slow recovery expected by most analysts, Trump is hoping people will recall the growth and 3.5% unemployment figures of last January to choose him.

Current state of the campaign

For now, Joe Biden’s strategy seems to be winning the day. National polls give Biden an average lead of over 10%, with leads in the so-called battleground states including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—the three states that gave Trump his victory in 2016.

Regarding the Senate races, some polls indicate that as many as five states could flip from Republican to Democrat, thereby handing over the control of the Senate (and Congress as a whole) to the Democrats. If the polls are correct, this would give Biden and his party a victory similar to what Barack Obama achieved in 2008.

The first debate between Trump and Biden may actually have made this result a possibility. A final debate will take place on October 22 and it could either be decisive in favour of Biden or the beginning of a late surge for Trump in the final days of the campaign.

We note that George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 both lost the popular vote, but won in the Electoral College to become President. It is likely that Biden will win the popular vote, but the battleground states will decide the ultimate winner. Keep an eye on these states on election night: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota.

Impact on Canada-U.S. relations

When it comes to common shared values regarding democracy and individual liberties, our economic prosperity and our national security, the Canada-U.S. relationship is special and unique in the world.

We are more than neighbours with a shared border. We are friends, allies and partners. We are also players on the international stage through the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, the IMF, the World Trade Organisation and other multilateral bodies. In addition, the USMCA (the free-trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico that replaced the NAFTA) is now in application since July 1.

America remains by far our biggest and most important trading partner. And Canada represents the premier export market for 35 states. Jobs in both countries depend on our economic relationship. In many cases, we are each other’s supply chain. So we cannot remain indifferent to the outcome of the election on November 3.

In a post COVID-19 world, we can expect change and possibly, the rise of protectionist instincts. It is important to note that both Trump and Biden have “Buy America” policies and their respective parties have protectionist proponents. So we must be prepared.

We have seen the Trump approach—aggressive bilateralism, sometimes unilateral actions and usually confrontational. Tariffs are often part of his tactics to get concessions.

Biden is a more conventional leader and is a believer in the multilateral approach. He is clearly more predictable and less confrontational.

This being, we will require vigilance and permanent “commercial diplomacy” on U.S. soil which will involve meeting regularly with elected officials at all levels of government and trade associations, irrespective of America’s choice in the 2020 election.

To learn more about the potential impacts of the U.S. Election on Canadian organizations and our economy, reach out to our Public affairs and Government relations experts in Montreal at relationsgouvernementales.mtl@national.ca.

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Written by John Parisella

Biden-Harris: What it means for Canadian organizations
November 09, 2020