I have written before that US President Donald Trump wants allies, including Canada, but especially Germany and other EU members, to do more, by which he means spend more, in the common defence realm. Now, Murray Brewster, writing for CBC News, wonders if President Trumps new or accelerated trade war with most of his allies “could be a dream come true … [for] … European defence contractors, long frustrated with Canada’s penchant for buying American.”
Mr Brewster explains, in some detail, some of the cost factors, involving the impact of tariffs, that must be rattling around the brains of Canadian procurement officials and American, European and Asian defence system manufacturers. If one looks carefully at almost any complex device, from an Apple iPhone to an F-35 jet fighter or a Type 26 frigate, one will see an enormously complex, integrated, global supply chain. The iPhone was designed in the USA but the technology has a HUGE Israeli R&D base and the phones are assembled in China from parts made in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA, amongst other places. It’s the same with even highly “secure” weapons systems, even the Eurofighter consortium nations, who really want to keep all the jobs to themselves, import components and technology from around the world.
There are no American firms bidding as major contenders in Canada’s warship project but it might be possible to “weigh” the analysis of factors ~ a partially political process where ministers have a perfect right, even duty, to ensure that the national interests, broadly defined, are understood and respected in contracting ~ such that American content (weapons and sensors, most likely) is penalized. But in the jet fighter project it could be enough to solidify public support behind the Liberal decision to say “No!” to the 5th generation US made F-35 Lightening II and the general public might agree that a 4th(+) generation fighter like the Airbus (Eurofighter) Typhoon might be, as I suggested several months ago, good enough for Canada.
I’m not suggesting that the trade war with the USA will make Team Trudeau any more inclined to invest in Canada’s military, but it may shade the decision making process in ways that are designed to punish America by buying from other sources … in other words, President Trump’s wholly dishonest claim that tariffs on steel and aluminium are needed to protect “national security” may have quite the reverse impact. They may actually do harm to America’s defence industrial base and, concomitantly, provide a small boon to Europe.