Local leaders optimistic regarding U.S. President-elect Biden's victory

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Windsor Star/Julie Kotsis




With the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, political, union and business leaders on this side of the border are expressing optimism that the long-standing relationship between the countries will flourish.

“I certainly don’t think that any one person can destroy the several-hundred-year-old relationship that exists between Windsor and Detroit,” said Mayor Drew Dilkens. “So there was never a fear of that happening in my mind with (President) Donald Trump.

Having Joe Biden at the helm, certainly you’ll have more presidential behaviour and he’s not likely to inflame, you know unnecessarily inflame, all sorts of people, groups and organizations and relationships.

“And even though something like NAFTA was renegotiated and we now have the USMCA, and … all three countries (United States, Canada and Mexico) seem relatively happy with that, the process to get there was very inflammatory,” Dilkens said.

“I think as a Canadian and as someone who watched it … from afar, it was just unnecessarily inflammatory and not the way that you would treat a good friend and a neighbour.”

Saturday afternoon, a number of major news outlets projected that Biden had defeated Trump, who served a rare single-term as president. Biden has promised to unify and mend a nation staggering under the burden of a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, a faltering economy and deep political divisions.

Rakesh Naidu, president of the Windsor Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is pleased with the outcome of the election and looking forward to working closely with the new administration and the folks that will be deployed to manage the Canada-U.S. trade relations.

“There is now a level of certainty, which is so much needed by the business community,” Naidu said. “Having that president-elect in place and one that is pro-trade and pro-Canada, always, always bodes well for us.

“We think this is a really positive outcome and the few areas of friction that we’ve had in the recent past and a couple of years back with the tariffs and so on, we leave all of that behind and we can turn over a new leaf and reset our relationship and make it work for both countries.”

Naidu pointed out that during Biden’s campaign, he talked about working closely with trading partners.

“Canada is the single most important trading partner for the U.S. and Biden has been in the past very open and able to working with Canada,” he said.

John D’Agnolo, president of Unifor Local 200 and chairman of both the Ford Canada master bargaining committee and the Unifor auto council, was a little more cautious about what the newly elected Democratic president’s stand on trade will mean for the auto industry.

“I’m optimistic that he’s won,” D’Agnolo said. “I know we’ve had major issues with Donald Trump when it comes to aluminum (tariffs from Canada), some of the trade battles we’ve had, but from an industry perspective I’m not sure.

“Before Donald Trump (U.S. administrations) would sign every trade agreement when it comes to the industry. We lost more jobs to Mexico with the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the Trans Pacific agreement.

“Now that Joe Biden’s in, I hope he recognizes the importance of keeping jobs within the communities,” he said. “We’ve always had a great relationship with the United States – 90 per cent of our trade is with them – and they recognize labour costs are very much the same.

“I truly believe why Donald Trump got so many votes was because of tearing up the trade agreements. There’s things that he did that we wish the Liberal party that’s in power would do.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement Saturday congratulating both Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on their election.

“Canada and the United States enjoy an extraordinary relationship – one that is unique on the world stage,” Trudeau said. “Our shared geography, common interests, deep personal connections, and strong economic ties make us close friends, partners, and allies.

“We will further build on this foundation as we continue to keep our people safe and healthy from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and work to advance peace and inclusion, economic prosperity, and climate action around the world.

“I look forward to working with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, their administration, and the United States Congress as we tackle the world’s greatest challenges together.”

Dilkens said Trudeau handled the challenges of dealing with Trump in a very professional manner.

“I give our prime minister a lot of credit because he acted very diplomatically and very mature in the responses that he gave in the last four years when things were being thrown at him that could have evoked a different response,” he said.

“He certainly showed strong leadership. And in fact, our prime minister looked like the strongest leader of all three countries in the NAFTA area – very, very stable, which is something to be thankful for.

“I don’t know from a business perspective whether it changes a whole lot but just getting back to a more presidential tone and a more sort of common-sense relationship based on the hundreds of years of friendship and business support that we’ve provided to one another, I think will just serve well for everyone in the future.”