The Trump administration's belligerence toward Canada has confounded officials and citizens on both sides of the border.
Once considered among the closest and most similar countries in the world, the neighbours, who share the world's longest friendly border, have adopted diverging and competing policies.
The long list of bilateral antagonism includes:
– Trump's tariffs on Canadian steel and his threat to impose crippling tariffs on Canadian auto parts
– Canadian retaliatory tariffs, which the Trump administration claims are "illegal"
– Trump's hostility and belittling insults for Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau
– more aggressive American border agents and policy, including lifetime bans for Canadians that have had any contact with marijuana
But perhaps most concerning is the war of words between the two countries. While the language used in official documents and reports may seem innocuous, they signal significant shifts in foreign policy for both countries.
First the Trump administration complained to the World Trade Organization that Canadian retaliatory tariffs threaten "national security." Then the Trudeau government called American tariffs an "illegal" violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Now, in an escalation, the Trump administration is officially calling Canada itself a "national security threat" in testimony to the United States Senate.
The statement comes from the administration trade representative Robert Lighthizer. Criticized for destabilizing North American trade and economies by some senators, Lighthizer stated unequivocally that Canada represents a threat to American national economic integrity and security, specifically when it comes to the steel market.
While the trade representative made clear that the situation does not require military action, increasing tensions between the United States and Canada have resulted in more aggressive American border enforcement, including checkpoints to stop foreigners within one hundred sixty kilometres of the Canadian border and incursions into waters off the coast of New Brunswick.
With this administration, there's no telling whether the escalation in language is meant to pressure Canada into new trade agreements or whether it signals a fundamental shift in relations between the two countries in the long term.