WASHINGTON Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday joked that he is not expecting an influx of unhappy Americans across the border if firebrand Republican Donald Trump becomes president.
As Trump's popularity builds in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Internet search providers have noted a spike in queries from Americans about moving to Canada.
Trudeau told students on the third day of an official visit to the United States, however, that the idea of emigration by voters who feared ending up on the losing side was common during U.S. election campaigns.
"If over the past decades that had been the case, we'd have more people in Canada than in the United States ... It becomes an easy thing to cry out," he said during a discussion at Washington's American University. Canada's population is just over a tenth the size of that of the United States.
Trudeau said Canadians and Americans continually crossed the border to live in the other country.
"That's just the nature of our friendship and relationship and to link it too much to politics is humorous ... There will always be flows back and forth and one must never fret or be disappointed with that," he said.
Migration data from after Republican George W. Bush's 2000 election and 2004 re-election - other times when some liberal Americans pledged to move to Canada in protest – suggests few followed up on their promise.
Trudeau, whose Liberals took power in Canada last November, had previously largely avoided questions about the consequences of a Trump victory, saying he will work with whomever wins.
Earlier this week he said he would neither fight Trump nor support him but understood his appeal for people fed up with politics.
Trudeau made his comments a day after talks at the White House that set the seal on better ties with the United States. Trudeau and President Barack Obama agreed joint steps to combat climate change and make it easier for people and goods to flow back and forth across their countries' long border.
Trump has in the past mused about tearing up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which could cripple the Canadian economy.
Keeping good relations with the United States is critical for Canada, which sends 75 percent of its exports to its southern neighbour.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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