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Stephen Mihm

Trade War History Is Not on Justin Trudeau’s Side

Tariffs could batter the U.S. economy, embolden Canadian nationalists and enrich China. 

So much riding on it. Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. 

So much riding on it. Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. 

Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images

In 1969, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau reflected on his country’s relationship with the United States in a speech to the Washington Press Club. “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant,” he said. “No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast…one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

His son Justin Trudeau, the current prime minister, might be tempted to describe the U.S. in even more colorful terms, given his recent diplomatic row with the Trump administration. It’s hard to believe that the two countries are on the brink of a war over tariffs, since Canada is second only to China as a trade partner of the U.S.