What does President-Elect Biden mean for Canadian Businesses?

Late in the morning on November 7th, about 75 million Americans let out a collective “whoop” as media outlets declared Joe Biden the winner in the most contentious U.S. presidential election in history.

It wasn’t just Americans. The world – including Canada – watched the election closely, hoping a change in presidents might bring welcome relief from the volatility and divisiveness that had taken hold south of the border (and was also seeping across our country’s border).

But like all change, a switch in administration comes with a sense of unease. A new president (and a move from a Republican to a Democrat) will bring change to policies that can affect Canadians – in particular Canadian businesses – in both good and potentially not so good ways.

So, what can Canada expect from a Biden government? Here’s what some experts predict may happen once Biden is sworn in on January 20 th.


In an interview with CBC, University of British Columbia political science professor Paul Quirk, said “a Biden presidency would eliminate the extreme hostility toward trade that has consistently driven Trump’s policies.”

The good news:

· Canada should not expect surprise tariffs, like the one Trump imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum. In fact, Biden has said he would drop those tariffs.

· Biden hinted he would be open to re-entering the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, shelved with a Trump win in 2016. This might not be an early priority, however.

· The U.S. will take a more unified approach to International trade. Where Trump had almost paralyzed the World Trade Organization, economists expect Biden to take a more united approach and enlist the support of other major economies to challenge some of China’s trade and industrial policies.

Not so good:

· Like Trump, Biden favours “Buy American” policies, so longstanding issues like softwood lumber will remain.

China Relations

The good news:

· While tensions between China and the U.S. aren’t going away anytime soon, Canadian diplomat Guy Saint-Jacques says Biden’s approach to China would, overall, be less confrontational than Trump’s. And with that, suggests Saint-Jacques, there could be a new approach to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadian Michaels who remain imprisoned in China, presumably victims from the U.S. – Huawei battle. The president-elect may be open to negotiating an agreement for a settlement instead of pursuing charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou Meng.

· A more diplomatic approach from the U.S. may also benefit Canadian pork, canola and beef producers, who have also been penalized after Canada detained Meng.

Energy and environment

The good news:

· Biden’s environment plan aligns with Canada’s in that it will move the U.S. towards green technology and aim to move the country’s power sector to being emissions free in 25 years. Like Trudeau, Biden believes this will help kick-start the country’s economy by creating new jobs in a new green economy.

Not so good:

· Investing a lot of money in clean energy would only happen if the deal made it through Congress – a challenge with Republicans continuing to hold the Senate.

· Biden has always vowed to scrap the long-suffering Keystone XL project, something Alberta has been lobbying for years and has invested more than a billion dollars into. Some experts say he may soften his approach, but if cancelled, this will be another big economic blow to Alberta’s economy.


The good news:

· Biden’s policies will undoubtedly be good for immigrants to the U.S who have felt the impact of some of Trump’s harsh policies. Biden has said that his immigration proposals are one way he will "take urgent action to undo Trump's damage." This will include policies that separated families and put children at the border in cages.

Not so good :

· Trump’s hard line on immigration was good for Canada, which made it clear to all that ours is a country that welcomes global talent. Biden is expected to take a more progressive approach to immigration and loosen restrictions. And that could put a wrench in Ottawa’s three-year plan to bring in 1.2 million immigrants over to help address labour shortages and boost the economy amid the pandemic.

Still, there are two months between Biden’s win and his official swearing in as the 46th president of the U.S. If we have learned anything from the last four years, we know that anything – absolutely anything – could happen between now and then. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best. Who’s ready for a brand new year?





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