U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent attacks towards Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have inspired Canadians to retaliate with a consumer boycott of U.S. products. In theory, such seems like a good way to deliver a devastating blow to Trump and his precious economy. But is it the right way to protest?
Gabe Batstone, businessman extraordinaire and co-chair of the Canadian American Business Council, doesn’t think so. He says that while a consumer boycott may be the natural first instinct, it isn’t necessarily the most effective approach to the situation.
“Historically, global peace and prosperity have flourished when trade has flourished, so fighting U.S. industry protectionism with Canadian consumer protectionism makes good copy and little sense,” Batstone wrote in an email to Reuters. “Cutting off your nose to spite your face is rarely a good strategy.”
The reality is that Canada is bursting at its seams with U.S. products. Almost everything that Canadians can touch and buy will still benefit the U.S. one way or another, whether it be the Nikes on your feet or your morning Starbucks. After all, Canada is the largest market for U.S. goods — imports from the south totalled a staggering US$98.9 billion in the first quarter of 2018 alone. It’s near impossible to boycott U.S. products when the pretty much every product Canadians have access to can be traced back to the U.S. somehow.
“To suggest Canadians are going to stop drinking Coke and Pepsi is a bit of a stretch, given we are so enmeshed in U.S. consumer culture. A bottom-line impact is not likely to occur,” argued Nik Nanos, an pollster. “That said, this is going to be a massive headache for U.S. companies doing business in Canada.”
Perhaps the better strategy would be to buy Canadian. Actively choosing to buy strictly Canadian products could raise the effectiveness of an anti-U.S. consumer boycott in ways that a boycott alone could not. For example, not going to Walmart is one thing, but not going to Walmart and proceeding to Real Canadian Superstore instead would pack a double whammy.
Hit Trump where it hurts: U.S. Tourism?
Other sources have suggested avoiding travel to the United States in order to damage its $1.5 trillion tourism industry; however, this may be difficult to commit to as the U.S. remains to be one of the top destination for Canadians in terms of family trips and vacations. This is due in part to the popular variety of sunny spots like Florida and Hawaii, as well as the significantly cheaper airfare compared to domestic.
Still, with a little extra willpower, boycotting U.S. travel could still be good way to make a statement. At the end of the day, the average Canadian is the only one who can really make an impact on the U.S. tourism industry. The situation with aluminum and steel may be out of their hands, but where they choose to spend their time and money to vacation is entirely within their control.