Trudeau needs to 'get his hands dirty' to deal with Biden's Buy American policy: Mulroney

With U.S. President Joe Biden forging ahead with a new ‘Buy American’ strategy for the auto sector, former prime minister Brian Mulroney says that it’s time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to head to Washington, D.C. and “get his hands dirty” making his case for why the proposal is wrong.

Biden laid out his Build Back Better budget framework Thursday, a plan he promises will create millions of American jobs, and includes an electric vehicle tax credit on U.S. manufactured cars.

This is of concern to Canada, with International Trade Minister Mary Ng warning that this kind of provision could harm jobs in Canada’s auto manufacturing sector, and may even contradict existing trade agreements.

‘”There are a lot of protectionists in there [Congress]. The Prime Minister has to see beyond that, and get down there, and get his hands dirty working with the Americans and saying: ‘This is wrong,’” Mulroney said in an interview with Evan Solomon that is airing on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

“The Prime Minister's got to say ‘this is unacceptable to Canada, privately, and here's why.’ Make his case, and I'll bet you $1 to a doughnut, good things are going to happen.”

Mulroney said that, while Biden and Trudeau appear to have a solid relationship, “the results of that are not seen yet,” as Canada hasn’t gotten very far in making the case against Biden’s ‘Buy American’ approach.

“The Canada-U.S. file is like the national unity file, only the prime minister can handle this. It's so vital to our well-being, this is not something you can delegate,” Mulroney said. “If you have a great personal relationship with the President of the United States and the leadership in Congress on both sides of the equation, if you have that —and you must have it if you're the Prime Minister of Canada — great things can happen.”

TOUGHEST CHALLENGE FOR JOLY?

On Tuesday, Trudeau tapped Melanie Joly to be Canada’s fifth foreign affairs minister in six years.

Asked what he thinks her biggest challenge will be coming into the high-ranking portfolio, Mulroney said it will be to “reassert Canada's role as a major player in the world.”

“First of all, we’ve got to honour our own obligations. We’re delinquent on our NATO payments, we’re delinquent in respect of the commitment for foreign aid … And you don't get anywhere unless your interlocutors know that you're a serious country that pays its bills… We can't assert leadership claims if we're not honouring our basic commitments to the world community,” Mulroney said.

“I know her, I think that she's an able, charming person, who could do a very good job for Canada internationally. But I think she's going to have to pay attention to the basics.”

OPPOSITION SHOULD BACK LIBS

More broadly, Mulroney said that the biggest challenges facing the federal Liberal government on the world stage today are twofold: China and climate change.

“Those are the two international challenges that require strong, principled leadership. You know, prime ministers are not elected for popularity, they're elected to provide leadership. And there are times when Canadians have to be told not what they want to know, but what they have to know. Not what they want to hear, but what they have to know,” Mulroney said.

“And what they have to know is that those are the two main challenges, and if Canada is going to play a constructive international role, it must be in tandem with other industrialized nations dealing with those two matters.”

He said he thinks Canada is equipped and ready to do this, and that “to the extent possible, all political parties should support the government as they pursue solutions vital for Canada in these two important areas.”

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