Trump’s freshly appointed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has Canada’s government feeling hopeful about this month’s NAFTA renegotiations. According to The Huffington Post, Kelly – a retired Marine Corps general and former commander of U.S. Southern Command – is seen as particularly sympathetic and understanding when it comes to Canadian partnerships due to his military experience in cross-border security operations. In addition, Kelly is thought of as something of a stabilizing force within in the volatile Trump administration. “Kelly is one of the secretaries who is the most respected, so I think that he might bring some mature adult supervision,” an unnamed Canadian government official told HuffPo.
Kelly was the first member of the Trump cabinet to visit Canada when he attended meetings in March to discuss international security concerns in his then-role of Secretary of Homeland Security. He has spoken highly of the country, albeit in comments that underscore America’s uneasy relationship with Mexico under the current administration. When asked before a Senate Homeland Security Committee what if he was concerned about the Canadian border, Kelly replied that he was “not as obviously concerned with what comes with the northern border as the southern border, but it is our border, so I’m concerned with all the borders,” while adding that “the absolutely great news story in the northern border is that we have Canada there, that it’s a friend and ally. They interact with us at every level, they’re very careful about who comes into their country.”
Amidst trade concerns, President Trump enacted a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber entering the United States in late April and has accused Canada of hurting American dairy farmers. These two issues will be among those negotiated when NAFTA talks begin on August 16 in Washington D.C.