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Vancouver business leaders reflect on Donald Trump win

Time will tell if Trump talk on trade is rhetoric or policy
Donald Trump was projected to win the U.S. presidency early January 9 Pacific Time | Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

U.S. Republican candidate for president Donald Trump took the stage to give a victory speech nearing midnight on November 8 Pacific Time (3 a.m. Eastern Time).

He is projected to win the U.S. Electoral College and become the 45th president of the United States. Exact results were not available by press time but Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton phoned Trump late November 8 Pacific Time to concede.

The development was a surprise for pollsters and political pundits who had projected a victory for Clinton.

The impact on Canada could soon be felt in that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a trade deal that involves 12 Pacific Rim countries, is unlikely to pass. Trump has also hinted that he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Business leaders and observers, who were at the American Chamber of Commerce election night event at the Hotel Vancouver to watch election returns, however, believe that relations between the two countries will remain strong

“We’ll have a president who understands that all business is based on relationships and that there is no tighter relationship in the world than that between Canada and the U.S.,” said Iain Black, who is CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

“They’re our closest friends, our closest allies, they are family.”

Black praised Trump as being a business leader who “understands the heartbreak of not being successful in business and the elation that comes with being successful.”

He called Trump’s statements that the U.S. will walk away from NAFTA and the TPP as “understandable rhetoric from someone pursuing elected office and, when the dust settles, he will recognize the significance for the American citizenry of having us as a closest and largest trading partner.”

Vancouver-based Dorsey & Whitney LLP partner Jeffrey Peterson, who is American, agreed that the TPP is now dead but he said that it is unlikely that Trump would immediately seek to cancel NAFTA.

Peterson specializes in corporate commercial and cross-border law.

“I don’t think he would rip up the treaty but rather is seeking to renegotiate it,” Peterson said.

“Remember, what he said is that we can do better. He didn’t say that he is opposed to all trade or all free trade, he said that the U.S. can do better. It’s going to be a much more inward looking U.S. administration.”

Although many celebrities and others say that they will move to Canada if their choice of presidential candidate does not win, Peterson said that this is unlikely.

"All the Democrats said they were going to come up when George W. Bush was elected," Peterson said.

"All the Republicans were going to come up when Obama was elected. How many arrived? I don't think a whole lot. For me its a lot of noise. I don't think there's going to be a flood of Americans wanting to move to Canada."

He was referring to tweets such as one from David Crosby, who responded to a fan's tweet that he would move to Vancouver if Trump won. During a September 15 concert at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, Crosby also jokingly said that he was performing the concert as a ruse for simply checking out Vancouver real estate.

Despite Peterson's sentiment that moving to Canada is an empty threat, Immigration Canada websites reported server errors early Wednesday morning, Vancouver time.

(Immigration Canada website at 12:45 a.m. Vancouver time on November 9)

Peterson said that friction may intensify between the U.S. and the Canadian administration of Justin Trudeau but added that "Trump was a Democrat for years."

“He’s a New Yorker. I wonder if the real Trump is as conservative and as much of a populist as his base seems to think," Peterson said.

U.S. consul general Lynne Platt told Business in Vancouver that the election proves that democracy is alive and well.

“We try to explain to people that it’s very difficult to rig a system that is so decentralized,” she said.

“Every state runs its full elections differently. So there is no one standard.”

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