From cross-border travel to consumer products, Canadians are the biggest buyers of U.S. goods in the world.
But in the wake of tariffs imposed by the Donald Trump administration on steel and aluminum, and retaliatory levies by the Canadian government on certain U.S. products, some residents are considering focusing their spending within Canada to show solidarity.
“It’s the old story,” said Ken Wong, professor of marketing at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, while describing the effect of a coordinated consumer effort.
“Five individual fingers don’t deliver power that five fingers coordinated in a fist deliver.”
Wong told Global News it’s important to “show some backbone” with the United States right now, but he cautioned against an emotional response that would get very personal.
“We’re going to have a relationship with the U.S. and its people long after this dispute is over,” Wong said.
Canada buys about $25 billion worth of food from the U.S. each year, according to Sylvain Charlebois, dean of management and professor at the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“That’s one-eighth of the entire food pie we eat every year,” he said.
“If you play around with that one-eighth, it can make a big difference to a lot of people.”
But getting Canadians to choose to buy mostly domestic food, for instance, isn’t easy. Most shoppers are sensitive to price when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and frequently make choices based on their available budgets. Canadian products often cost more.
In the case of packaged foods, even a careful shopper may be challenged to find made-at-home goods.
An immediate way to shop Canadian is to stay at home this summer instead of vacationing south of the border. The same goes for winter travel to getaways like Florida and Texas.
Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, told an automotive audience in Detroit on Monday that when trade negotiations with Canada are completed, trade will flourish between the two countries.
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“I am convinced when trade negotiations are complete, there will be more volume, more dollars, and greater freedom of trade between the United States and Canada –I’m convinced of it,” Pompeo said.
In the meantime, Charlebois expressed concern about “food inflation” rising dramatically, especially if there are trade embargoes between the two countries on certain food items.
“We have to brace ourselves,” he said.
“Everyone loses in a trade war but we are likely to lose more than in the U.S.”
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