This is the second part of our series examining the impacts world leaders will have and the issues they will face on the world stage for the remainder of 2018. This section covers Canada and Mexico, the United States’ neighbors in North America. In Canada we focus on popular liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In Mexico, current President Enrique Pena Nieto is not eligible for a second term. The election will be held on July 1.
1. Canada and Justin Trudeau
Canada’s current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is the polar opposite of current US President Donald Trump. Trudeau is young, liberal, and idealistic, which helped propel him to leadership of his party in 2013, and the Prime Minister’s seat in 2015. However, Trudeau has not been free from controversy during his tenure. Trudeau has clashed with Trump on some issues, including President Trump’s refugee policy, and most recently, trade policy.
Trudeau appears to have concerns with Trump’s plans to re-negotiate multilateral trade deals, including NAFTA. Many are also waiting for Trudeau’s response to President Trump’s recent announcement of tariffs on steel imported into the U.S., as many believe this could hurt trade with Canada. For two nations who are set to be allies as close neighbors, trade seems to be a significant hurdle lying in the way of the kind of trust that Trump and Trudeau really should have.
Trudeau has also faced criticism for his soft stance towards both the war in Syria and his handling of refugees and returning foreign fighters. When Trudeau first became Prime Minister, he hesitated to condemn the actions of ISIS as genocide until after the United Nations took the first step, and has pledged to keep Canada from intervening with its NATO allies.
However, the worst criticism Trudeau has faced with the war in Syria is the idea of being able to re-integrate Canadians who went overseas to fight for ISIS back in Canada. Trudeau believes it is a program that could work with the right surveillance, security and re-integration policy. Trudeau has instead faced significant backlash from the Canadian people and members of the Conservative opposition in his government. Were Trudeau to go forward with this action, it would be interesting to see the response from the United States, as Trump would likely be significantly opposed.
The World Affairs Center opposes this re-integration policy by the Trudeau government, to do so would bring the fox into the hen house for both Canada and the United States. It is our hope that Canada will find a different solution to this situation.
Without question, Trudeau has also made it clear he intends for Canada to be a major player on the world stage, especially with economic and social policy. Trudeau’s embrace of the United Nations and his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland showed Trudeau is serious about being a world player.
Trudeau also appears to be facing some ethics questions at home, including one stemming from a vacation he and his family took in the Bahamas recently. However, it is hard to say what impact that would have on his seat or on the world stage.
2. Mexico, Pena Nieto and the Election
Mexico, led by current President Enrique Pena Nieto, really seems to be facing three major challenges this year: their election, Donald Trump, and Russia. Let’s start with the most obvious.
Mexico has become one of Trump’s favorite talking points both during his Presidency and during the Presidential election. Trump gained popularity by vowing to crack down on illegal immigration on the southern border and by promising to build a wall to help with the crackdown. However, Trump’s comments about making Mexico pay for the wall have garnered a lot of attention in Mexico, and ill feelings from Pena Nieto. Trump and Pena Nieto have been scheduled to meet several times since Trump took office, but have rescheduled due to “miscommunications” in policy, AKA, one or both were not happy with the wall comments or the response.
Pena Nieto hasn’t been necessarily anti-Trump, but it will be interesting to see if his predecessor, whether that far right candidate Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena, center right candidate Ricardo Anaya Cortes or far left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, handles Trump in the same way. It is likely that the new President’s first foreign policy action will involve dealing with the United States, the border and immigration.
The other two issues, their election and Russia, now appear to be tying in together. Mexico has warned that it does not want outside interference in their election after former United States Homeland Security head John Kelly made comments about the relationship between the US and a far left President from Mexico. However, the United States has now taken a different tone, warning Mexico of Russian interference in their elections.
Publicly, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and US Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio have warned that there are signs of Russian attempts to meddle in the upcoming Presidential elections, and that Mexico should “be aware.”
With elections in Mexico already fragile, the last thing they need is doubt in the validity due to the actions of Russia. Mexico should heed the warnings from the United States, and seek assistance in keeping the Russians out.
3. Shaken, Not Stirred
The next few years will be filled with significant differences in policy between the US, Mexico and Canada. Public disagreements will likely continue, and harsh rhetoric will probably be used, but we do not believe that this will change the relationship that the three nations have with each other in North America.
In our increasingly globalized world, the US, Canada and Mexico need to work together to keep North America stable and productive. These three nations represent neighbors that have the ways and means to work together for the betterment of each nation, and have in the past. That should not change, even if the leaders do. We are confident that at the end of the day, that is the attitude that will prevail, even if the leaders fail internally.