Canadians can breathe (slightly) easier after Monday’s cordial first meeting between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump, in which the President vowed only to “tweak” free-trade provisions with Canada. While that’s still open to interpretation, it at least sounds better than his promise during the election campaign to “tear up” NAFTA.
Perhaps also taking some comfort from the meeting: the growing number of American corporate leaders concerned about Trump’s trade ideas. The risk that a slowdown would pose to U.S. businesses becomes obvious when you dive into the numbers: if trade with just one Canadian province, Ontario, were disrupted, the economies of several states would take a serious hit.
While Canada as a whole has a goods trade surplus with the U.S., Ontario actually buys much more from south of the border than it sells.
In 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available, Ontario bought $182 billion in goods from the U.S. and sold $158.6 billion, for a U.S. trade surplus of $23.4 billion with the province. Thirty-nine states had trade surpluses with Ontario — of which 27 went to Trump in the presidential election.
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Even states that have deficits with Ontario may want to reconsider restricting trade: Michigan, for example, had a trade deficit of $22.4 billion with the province, yet Ontario was still the state’s number-one market outside the U.S. That means it not only sold more to Ontario than it did to the other Canadian provinces; it also sold more to Ontario than it did to any country outside Canada.
Michigan is not alone. According to Ontario’s Ministry of International Trade, 20 states count the province as their top export destination, and Trump took 13 of those in November: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Polling indicates Canadians feel they have much to lose if the Trump administration throws up trade barriers. But as the Ontario example shows, many Americans have a lot at risk as well — even if they don’t know it yet.