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Thoughts from the C-suite: keep your cool

Published by CME Manitoba on February 08, 2017

By Kevin Lusk, CME Advanced Manufacturing & Senior Executive Leadership Champion

By the time you read this, a new US administration will have been in place for a few weeks. Obama’s presidency is history and Trump’s presidency is underway. Manitoba manufacturers for the most part, are exporters and traders. While Trump is, to say the least, a controversial figure with comments from dumping NAFTA, to demanding of U.S. companies do more of their manufacturing in the U.S., to an increasing sense of the emergence of U.S. protectionism, how concerned should Manitoba manufacturers be that business opportunities will be cut short? What’s going to happen?  More succinctly, will your opportunities to do business in the U.S. fade into the sunset?

My advice to all business owners and CEO’s is to keep your cool!  No, your business world is not coming to an end. Administrations of all nations come and go. Business deals such as NAFTA always have their own supporters and their detractors and their own hype. Once in place no one likes change. But as we all know, from time to time all deals are subject to change. Any changes in our trade relationship if at all, with the U.S. will occur over time. At the moment, realize that it’s business as usual. There will be time to adjust when and if required.  Whatever direction the U.S. takes here are a couple of points to keep in mind.

The U.S. itself is a trading nation and not just a consumer nation. The new president, whatever your opinion of him might be, is an international businessman. He has surrounded himself with very smart people, with significant business experience both domestically and internationally. As business people, they know that the concept of “for me to win you have to lose” scenario doesn’t work very well for anyone. Canada is the U.S. largest trading partner, which means that the Canadian/U.S. business complex is almost impossible to separate.  Finally, having just concluded Free Trade negotiations with the EU, Canadians are not exactly little leaguers in nation to nation business negotiations.


The second point to consider is that Canada and the U.S. have always had storms in the relationship. In fact, every decade or so, Canada-U.S. relations historically reach a point where nothing happens until the respective administrations change. We’re at that point. There were little in positives that could describe the relationship between the then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama. The President’s refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is undoubtedly the main reason, but not the only one. So, today in both countries the re-set button has been hit. Many believe that Obama wasn’t exactly great for Canada. Consider the following:  He personally and directly blocked the Keystone Pipeline (a project that Trump supports). In 2011 Obama inserted protectionist “Buy American” language in the President’s jobs bill for government funded infrastructure, despite Canada’s objections to similar language in his stimulus bill two years earlier. There are many more points one could find. Softwood lumber comes to mind. Periodically, our tensions rise to the point where Canada and the U.S. are barely talking to each other. Those tensions are problematic for the U.S. and dangerous for Canada and require tough talk and negotiations to fix.  Could a Trump administration be any worse for Canada? Given the business focus of the new administration, to the contrary, I find myself hopeful.

Keep your cool. Focus on the priorities of your business, the development of that new product, and the opening of that new market in the U.S. and elsewhere. Rightly or wrongly the re-set button for both countries was pushed in 2016 and the leaders chosen so don’t stress over the politics because you can’t control them anyway. But you can control your business and its needs. A good way to improve your control is to take advantage of the great programs and support that CME provides its members.



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