Freeland Foreign Policy

Canada Says It Will Chart Its Own Course, Apart From U.S.

Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland expressed Canadian government discontent with U.S. protectionism and isolationism

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a speech on a shift in Canada’s foreign policy in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 6. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters

By

Paul Vieira

Updated June 6, 2017 5:51 p.m. ET

202 COMMENTS

OTTAWA—Canada signaled it would pursue foreign-policy objectives that are in contrast to the growing isolationism of the U.S., marking a shift away from its historic alignment with its neighbor and most important trading partner.

In a speech to the legislature on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took the unusual step of expressing Canadian government discontent with the U.S., citing concerns about America’s growing protectionism, its withdrawal from the Paris climate-change agreement and the desire by its voters to “shrug off the burden of leadership” globally.

Canada plans to strengthen its military presence in the most dangerous parts of the world, Ms. Freeland said, and will on Wednesday release details on spending plans for a new defense policy. A boost in military spending and greater engagement would mark a departure for the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was elected on a campaign promise to end Canada’s direct combat role in the fight against Islamic State.

“To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state,” she said. “Such a dependence would not be in Canada’s interest.…The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Ms. Freeland said.

While Ms. Freeland didn’t name U.S. President Donald Trump, she left little doubt that she was talking about U.S. leadership as she described the distance between the Canadian government and Trump administration policies on global trade, climate change, the commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the pursuit of women’s rights, including access to safe abortions.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, embraced Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons on June 6, after she delivered a speech about a shift in Canada’s foreign policy. Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters

The remarks are the latest in a string of warnings from world leaders about the risks of U.S. isolationism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe can no longer rely on other countries, underscoring her concern with U.S. policy such as Mr. Trump’s refusal to publicly back a core tenet of NATO, that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Ms. Freeland said the principle, known as Article 5,  is “at the heart” of Canada’s security policy.

Ms. Freeland, who is also responsible for cross-border trade, highlighted Canada’s differences with the U.S. even as she faces renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, in talks scheduled to start in August. Mr. Trump was elected in part on a vow to revamp the trade pact incorporating the U.S., Canada and Mexico, which he has called a “disaster” and blamed for U.S. manufacturing job losses.

That criticism is misplaced, Ms. Freeland said. “It is wrong to view the woes of our middle class as the result of fiendish behavior by foreigners,” she said. “The real culprit is domestic policy that fails to appreciate that continued growth, and political stability, depend on domestic measures that share the wealth.”

The big surprise in the speech, observers say, was Ms. Freeland’s “strident endorsement” of a stronger Canadian military, said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and now vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, in Ottawa. “She gave every indication the government will make a robust investment in our security and defense,” he said.

Such an investment would move Canada closer to, although still below, the NATO target that member countries should spend 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Last week, Mr. Trudeau joined Ms. Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in publicly rebuking Mr. Trump for his decision last week to withdraw from the Paris climate-change accord.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Merkel spoke by phone on Tuesday, at which time both Group of Seven leaders reiterated their commitment to multilateralism and the fight against climate change, according to a summary of the conversation released by Canadian officials.

They agreed to “continue working closely with like-minded partners to implement the historic Paris agreement on climate change,” the Canadian readout said.

—Jacquie McNish
contributed to this article.

Comments Off on Freeland Foreign Policy

Is Canada really back?

How Canada must navigate the new normal of global relationships

What does “Canada is back” really mean? Some answers will come this week in Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s foreign policy speech and in the release, overdue, of the Defence Policy Review.

Success will hinge on answering three questions:

• What are the priorities?

• How much new money will be invested?

• What are the means to achieve them?

From day one, the Trudeau government vigorously re-embraced multilateralism, declaring that Canada would seek a seat on the UN Security Council.

But a council seat is a means, not an end. Will Ms. Freeland spell out our electoral platform and tell us what we want to achieve? And what is happening with peace operations? Are we going to Mali?

The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has shaken the rules-based liberal international system in the same fashion that the tumbling of the Berlin Wall presaged the end of the Soviet Union.

It is too soon to tell whether President Trump’s changes will endure but, for now, as guardian of the order that it created the United States has gone AWOL.

Middle powers such as Canada need to step up to save our global operating system.

In the wake of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, we should focus on the practical side of climate mitigation through, for example, the open sharing of technological innovation achieved by Canada’s oil sands companies, coupled with more science diplomacy. Evidence-based research still matters.

The Trudeau Government has rightly made the U.S. relationship its top priority, shifting cabinet officers, connecting with the new administration, reaching out to Congress and, in its outreach into Trump territory, bringing in premiers and business to make the case for Canada. Our livelihood – and the government’s own re-election – depends on managing this relationship.

In response to Mr. Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policies, Justin Trudeau is going full bore into trade diversification. His father did the same after Richard Nixon imposed a U.S. import surcharge in 1971. Pierre Trudeau’s third-option strategy was aimed, with limited success, at closer links with Europe and Japan.

Ms. Freeland brought home the Canada-Europe trade agreement. International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne is helping to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is leading talks with China. In renegotiating NAFTA, we are working with Mexico, our third-largest trading partner. Continental ties are also deepening through the Pacific Alliance.

We are good at trade policy. Now we need to invest more in trade development. We also need the infrastructure, especially pipelines, that get our resources to market.

Ms. Freeland is sure to mention the progressive trade agenda in her policy speech. It will take real form, with the addition of a chapter on gender to the Canada-Chile free-trade agreement, as part of the announcements during this week’s visit of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

It is a smart initiative. Women are steadily increasing their place in global business. Women are very good entrepreneurs when given the opportunity, as micro-financing has demonstrated in Asia and Africa.

A progressive trade agenda must also address trade adjustment.

Canada’s social safety net – medicare, pensions and unemployment insurance – helps shield us from the populism that propelled Mr. Trump to power but, as we witness in Europe, it does not guarantee immunity.

Addressing inequality would be a useful theme for Canada to champion as we host next year’s G7 summit and, in the meantime, we should make it a focus for collective attention in multilateral forums such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Labour Organization.

The Trudeau government has sustained our commitment to collective security, with a brigade headed to Latvia and a sustained naval presence in the Arabian Gulf. But there is a readiness gap as we await new warships and fighter jets. When it comes to defence, money matters.

Successive Canadian governments have skimped and we stand accused, with some justice, of “freeloading”. We should set as goals of good international citizenship a contribution of 2 per cent of GDP to defence spending – the NATO norm – and 0.7 per cent of GDP for development – the Pearson Commission standard. If the United Kingdom can manage it, so can Canada

Canadian foreign policy, like all middle powers, is inevitably reactive. Choices must be weighed against interests, values and resources. With effort and money, we can make a difference in the niches. This week will give us a better sense of the Trudeau niches.

Comments Off on Is Canada really back?

Climate and Trump

“If Mr. Trump does decide to pull out, then it is going to make it more difficult for us to proceed with the carbon pricing as Mr. Trudeau and the premiers have envisaged,” said Colin Robertson, who is now a vice president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, in an interview with BNN Monday.

“However, there is a lot going on at the next level down between provinces and states,” he added, using California as an example of a state taking a different approach on climate than Trump with its cap-and-trade system. “The relationship California has, for example, with Quebec and Ontario on cap-and-trade – that will proceed.”

The Paris Agreement, which took effect November 4, 2016 and saw 195 parties signing the agreement  with147 ratifying, aims to keep the global average temperature below 2 degrees celsius and to limit rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Robertson warned that the Canadian government and provinces need to be mindful of competitiveness when it comes to climate policy, but noted that many companies are already making changes with the environment in mind.

“My sense is the climate train has left the station around the world and even in the United States – particularly at the state level – there’s an awful lot going on,” Robertson said. “Companies are making decisions now in terms of the switch to natural gas from coal because it makes good economic sense.”

Over the weekend, Trump said in a tweet he would make a decision on the Paris accord sometime this week.

I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!

Comments Off on Climate and Trump

NAFTA and Agriculture

ThePigSite.com - news, features, articles and disease information for the swine industry

Lobbying to Save NAFTA Proving Effective

18 May 2017

Manitoba Pork Council

Farm-Scape is sponsored by
Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork

FarmScape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council
and Sask Pork.

CANADA – The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says lobbying efforts from both within the United States and from Canada and Mexico to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement are showing results, Bruce Cochrane writes.

Since the election of US President Donald Trump the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been in question.

Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, observes trade is important to the United States, especially to US agriculture.

Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute

There was a faction within the White House, probably led by Mr Bannon and involving Peter Navarro who now heads his Trade and Industry Office in the White House, was encouraging the President to rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement but there was pushback from within the White House.

As within any administration there are various factions, led by probably Mr Cohn and Jared Kushner his son in law.

When word got out that this plan was to rescind the NAFTA, it was leaked up on Capitol Hill where the reaction was quite negative on both sides of the aisle.

Both Democrats and Republicans, Republicans like John McCain who chairs the important Armed Services Committee and most importantly within the farm community in what we would call Trump states, those states in the Midwest that voted for Mr Trump.

Ohio, Iowa Wisconsin, they pushed back and said no, don’t rescind the NAFTA because it’s working for us.

The agriculture community has responded to word that the NAFTA might be ending and this will play out.

This is not something that will be settled today.

This is like a moving picture.

We’re never sure on any day where things is going.

The Canadian and Mexican efforts to point out that trade works well not just for Mexico and Canada but for the United States, I think, is starting to show some result.

Mr Robertson remains optimistic.

He notes Canadian efforts to remind the Americans of how much trade with Canada matters to the United States have had an impact.

ThePigSite News Desk

Comments Off on NAFTA and Agriculture

Softwood Lumber

BALONEY METER: Canadian negotiations selectively optimistic

Andy Blatchford THE CANADIAN PRESS
May 18, 2017 – 6:43pmHistory tells tales of both parties adapting to neighbours

Comments Off on Softwood Lumber

Keep Doors Open at all levels

TRENDINGLotto Max | Real estate | Donald Trump | Harjit Sajjan | The New War on Cancer

‘Very unusual’ for White House to try using Trudeau to influence Trump, say observers, but ‘expect more’

Marie-Danielle Smith | May 9, 2017 7:16 PM ET=-

OTTAWA — It is a matter of course for officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House to keep lines of communication open between them, but observers say it was “very unusual” that Trump administration staff last month encouraged Justin Trudeau to try to influence their boss.

In late April, it appeared President Donald Trump was giving serious consideration to scrapping NAFTA, the trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that he has repeatedly called the “worst ever.” (It remains unclear whether he was seriously considering it or whether it was a bluff.)

Canadian government sources told the National Post Monday that a White House official took it upon themself to call Trudeau’s office amid Trump’s pondering, asking PMO staff to have Trudeau give Trump a call, so the pro-trade prime minister could talk the president out of withdrawing from NAFTA.

The Canadian Press then reported it had been Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump and a key White House adviser, who had called Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford.

The Associated Press confirmed that Kushner had been on the Washington end of the line, but cited an unnamed White House official who claimed the Canadians had instigated the call after news of the preparation of a draft executive order that would dismantle the trade agreement was leaked to news outlets.Regardless of who dialled first, what the reports have in common is a seeming attempt by Kushner to influence Trump, without his knowledge, via a foreign head of government — and close co-operation between the camps to facilitate a call that Trump would later cite as a reason for choosing to renegotiate, rather than kill, NAFTA.While calling on a foreign government to influence the president is “unusual,” it probably doesn’t break any formal rules or laws, according to one legal expert.

“I don’t think there’s a crime here,” said Carlton Lawson, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. The U.S. has a law called the Logan Act, which prohibits citizens “without authority of the United States” from trying to influence foreign governments in “disputes or controversies” involving the U.S. It was passed in 1799 after a Philadelphia state legislator, Dr. George Logan, tried to negotiate directly with French officials to undermine the foreign policy of the party that controlled Congress and the White House. But, Lawson said, the act is ambiguously worded, and not once in its 218 years on the books has it been used to prosecute somebody.

Besides, Lawson said, “the optics would look terrible” for Trump to indict a member of staff, and he wouldn’t fire Kushner, though he “might yell at him.”

Steve Saideman, the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University, said it’s “very unusual” that “staffers are using media and other countries to win policy battles.”

“I think it is dangerous because outsiders are being asked to manipulate the president,” he said, noting Kushner must have had “high comfort with Canada” to feel he could set it up.

Saideman said Trudeau should be careful and remain neutral as often as possible — it might not always be in Canada’s interest to poke at Trump when the White House requests it. “Expect four more years of this,” he added.

Eddie Goldenberg, who served as a senior adviser and then chief of staff to prime minister Jean Chrétien from 1993 to 2003, said “there is nothing normal about this White House” and the Trump White House is acting “in a way that nobody has ever before.”

In the past, he said, calls between the American president and the Canadian prime minister would be jointly organized by their national security advisers. It wasn’t “call me in five minutes,” he said. “It was always organized in advance. Usually they knew to a certain extent what they were going to be talking about.”

It’s not clear, he said, to what extent the White House thinks it can use Trudeau to influence Trump. “But there’s no question in my mind, if the president of the United States wants to talk to the prime minister of Canada, the prime minister should respond. … You make the call.”

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who served in the U.S. and a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said “smart” Canadian administrations have historically established close ties with American counterparts.

Gary Clement/National Post

Gary Clement/National Post

Robertson said under past administrations, it was “fairly normal” for officials to contact each other ahead of time to set up calls between their bosses, and “not uncommon” for staffers to have conversations that weren’t known to the president and prime minister — “the principals don’t need to be informed.”

Being able to have a “frank conversation back and forth” is especially important with an unpredictable president south of the border.

When troubling news leaks, staffers should be comfortable enough with each other that they can “phone across” with such clarifications as, “hey, … don’t get spooked by this, or don’t get angry about this, let me put this in context,” said Robertson.

“You keep as many doors open as you can.”

Comments Off on Keep Doors Open at all levels

NAFTA Renegotiation

NAFTA GETS NASTY

Wendy Mesley reports on how trade between the U.S. and Canada got some unwanted attention this week

http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/nafta-gets-nasty-1.4091817 00:00 05:29

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.04.47 PM

Common interest will ensure Canada-U.S. trade conflicts get solved: Chris Hall CBC

Beyond the ‘noise’ of Trump’s rhetoric are compelling interests for trade co-operation, experts say

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Apr 29, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Apr 30, 2017 2:35 PM ET

NAFTA renegotiations won't be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber.

NAFTA renegotiations won’t be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Close

Sunday Scrum: Mixed signals on NAFTA 9:45

Poster of video clip

Canada remains confident a deal can be reached with the United States on softwood lumber without repeating the drawn-out trade litigation of the past.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says reaching a new long-term deal is the best option, even as he repeats his warning that jobs will be lost in Canada as a result of the U.S. lumber industry’s lobbying for new duties on Canadian imports.

“The complications are that you have lobbies at work, lots of political pressures. But our experience is, in all of these conversations, at every level of the United States government and beyond … people see the common interest.”

The U.S. Commerce Department imposed preliminary duties of between three and 24 per cent on Canadian softwood imports this week. More anti-dumping duties are expected in the future.

‘We won’t sign a bad deal’

Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the White House had hoped to get this dispute out of the way before NAFTA negotiations begin.

Michael Froman, who served as former president Barack Obama’s top trade negotiator, told CBC News that a deal was in reach, but the Canadian side felt it could get better terms with Trump.

Trudeau Trump 20170213

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump shake hands after a joint news conference at the White House in Washington in February. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

But in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, the natural resources minister said there was “no good deal possible from the Canadian perspective” with the Obama administration.

“We weren’t prepared to sign a bad deal. We won’t sign a bad deal. If we have to wait it out we will,” said Carr. “And we’ll use all the options available to us, but I don’t think that’s in the interests of either Canada or the United States.”

Even so, Carr believes there’s an opportunity to get a deal. It’s a view shared by Quebec’s lead negotiator, Raymond Chrétien, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Washington in the 1990s.

“I’m confident that there’s a window perhaps for a negotiated settlement for the following reason: Mr. Trump has indicated that he wanted a quick … renegotiation of NAFTA, but this is not possible in my view,” Chrétien said.

“So why not solve the lumber dispute before you tackle the more comprehensive, complicated NAFTA negotiations? So hopefully there’s a small window there, and I’m sure that in Ottawa they would welcome a softwood lumber deal.”

Pushback from U.S. exporters

Softwood is not the only trade irritant Trump is highlighting. He’s blamed Canada for being unfair to American dairy producers. He’s still threatening to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement unless he can negotiate a fair deal for American workers.

USA-TRUMP/MONUMENTS

Trade experts say U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive posture on trade has alarmed the U.S. agriculture sector, which relies on foreign markets. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington, D.C., said Trump’s rhetoric this week claiming NAFTA has been horrible for the U.S. and a disaster doesn’t match the reality that the trade deal “has been pretty darn good” for the U.S.

“When Donald Trump’s announcements were coming out this week, the U.S. agriculture sector pushed back really hard. U.S. farms depend on exports to Canada and Mexico, and they were having none of this. So he’s gotten a lot of pushback.”

Dawson said the Trump Administration is trying to stir up American opposition to free trade following the failure to get rid of Obamacare and as it meets congressional opposition to a budget plan.

That’s why Dawson thinks Trudeau’s approach is the right one, reminding Trump in one of their phone calls this week of the negative impact that scrapping NAFTA would have on jobs and businesses on both sides of the border.

Partner with Mexico

Dawson said Canada should also work with Mexico as both countries prepare to discuss changes to NAFTA.

Trump Trade

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shakes his fist as he talks about the value of made-in-Mexico products. Canada and Mexico should work together in advance of NAFTA talks, says trade expert Laura Dawson. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

“Mexico has really strong retaliatory power in the United State. Every bit of corn the U.S. exports is bought by Mexico. If they stop buying U.S. corn that would be a big deal for U.S. agriculture. Similarly, the security front — if they stop co-operating on the U.S. southern border … that’s a big deal for the United States.

“So I think Canada needs to be a partner for Mexico.”

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat in the U.S., wrote this week for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute that managing the Trump file — and getting it right — has to be Trudeau’s first priority.

“While much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is merely noise, what is dangerous about the noise is the effect it is having on business confidence, both domestic and foreign.”

What’s gone beyond noise now is the dispute over softwood lumber. Carr said the federal government is prepared to assist those in the forest sector who are affected.

“There will be closures. Sawmills will be under pressure. But nothing yet is certain except that we are prepared with a number of policy options that we will work out with our provincial counterparts, and we will be ready.”

Comments Off on NAFTA Renegotiation

Trudeau Government outreach into the USA

Bill Morneau drawing links between anxiety that elected Trudeau, Trump

Morneau, whose most recent U.S. visit took him to New York and Indiana this week, said he’s been telling American political leaders that the same middle-class angst that fuelled Trump’s victory also helped propel the Trudeau government to power.

“As we go out to the United States, we reinforce the importance of jobs — that’s a common factor that we share with Americans,” Morneau said this week in a post-trip interview.“Having secure, well-paying jobs over the long term is the surest antidote to anxiety about the future.”

Morneau’s visit was part of Canada’s ongoing political charm offensive in the U.S., which has been intensifying since Trump took office in January.

Canadian leaders from all levels of government have been travelling stateside and highlighting the economic benefits for both countries of their cross-border business relationship.

It’s prompted by fears north of the border that several U.S. trade and tax proposals under discussion would, if implemented, have significant economic impacts in Canada.

Morneau said he recently met with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, and they discussed the similarities between conditions in their respective countries.

Earlier this week, he told a World Economic Forum event in New York that he made a point of telling his U.S. counterpart, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the same thing when they spoke last month at a G20 meeting in Germany.

“We talked about the challenges that fuelled our election in Canada and the challenges that fuelled the new administration in the United States — and the very real sense that we both need to strengthen the middle class in our countries,” he said.

The Trudeau government is trying to show Americans that their Canadian counterparts share many of the same fears and challenges as Trump supporters, said Christopher Sands, a U.S.-based political science professor and Canada-watcher.

“Politically, it’s smart. Don’t treat Trump as crazy or impossible, but try to find a way to seem as normal and as comfortable with him as possible and he’ll be the same with you,” said Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The most recent national elections in both countries came as middle-income workers were feeling squeezed, said Sands. But Canada didn’t see the same kind of “populist, nationalist, frustration with the establishment” present in the U.S., he noted.

Colin Robertson, a retired Canadian diplomat with extensive U.S. experience, said Morneau’s approach suggests the Trudeau government continues to seek “convergent points” with the Trump administration and with state governments.

“I think that’s probably wise,” said Robertson, who noted that while the two governments’ approaches on issues like refugees and climate are different, they have shared interests in achieving growth.

Many Trudeau cabinet ministers have been asked to focus some of their outreach efforts on key states with strong economic relationships with Canada.

Morneau has been asked to pay close attention to Indiana, in addition to his finance minister’s roles in the U.S. capital and New York.

His office sent out a release this week saying that Canada is Indiana’s top customer. It also said nearly 190,000 jobs in the state are directly connected to trade and investment with Canada.

Indiana’s importance runs even deeper because it’s the home state of U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, the former governor.

“I found that the relationship with Vice-President Pence started off on a very strong footing when we were in the White House,” Morneau said.

“He’s very interested and because of his background in a state like Indiana, which has such a strong relationship with Canada. He already has a good starting point in understanding how important the relationship is.”

Comments Off on Trudeau Government outreach into the USA

Trudeau, Ivanka Trump and Come From Away

Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval

Hanging out with Ivanka offers an in to a president who seems to value personal relationships over ideology — but whose brand is coming out ahead in this new friendship?

The cameras couldn't get enough of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump at their first meeting in Washington on Feb. 13, 2017.
The cameras couldn’t get enough of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ivanka Trump at their first meeting in Washington on Feb. 13, 2017.  (Evan Vucci / AP)  

WASHINGTON—A businesswoman whose lifestyle brand is struggling with liberals. A liberal-multilateralist prime minister who needs an in with a conservative-nationalist president.

Diplomacy is rooted in interests. And Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau both have an interest in hanging out with each other.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

The prime minister sat with the president’s daughter Wednesday night at the Broadway musical Come From Away, the Canadian show about the Newfoundland town that took in stranded Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. It was his second olive branch to her in just over a month.

Some U.S. news outlets suggested Trudeau had been sending a kind of passive-aggressive message: “Justin Trudeau brought Ivanka Trump to a Broadway show that celebrates generosity towards foreigners in need,” the New York Times tweeted to its 34 million followers. Whether or not that was true, he was also offering a kind of cashless donation to her company.

Trudeau joked of his “bromance” with former president Barack Obama. Shared youth and mutual interest in women’s issues notwithstanding, his new bilateral bestiehood appears much more a marriage of convenience.

“It is just so Game of Thrones‎,” said John Higginbotham, a former Canadian diplomat in Washington, referring to the television show in which warring family dynasties strike strategic alliances in ruthless pursuit of power.

Like Donald Trump before her, Ivanka Trump has made a brand out of her name. Her name has been tarnished, in the eyes of millions of progressive American consumers, by her father’s xenophobia and sexism. Who better to be seen with than the fashionable foreign progressive feminist who hugs refugees?

For Trudeau, daughter diplomacy offers the prospect of a lifeline to a president who shares almost none of his principles but who often appears to value personal relationships over ideology and policy — and who appreciates a political gift. Donald Trump has lavished praise upon chief executives who have let him take undeserved credit for their investments.

“It looks as if foreign leaders think the way to approach Trump is by direct or indirect appeals to his ego and personality, rather than in terms of national interests,” said Charles Stevenson, a former State Department policy planner who teaches foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University. “Business leaders have already discovered this, so they bring their announcements of job creation as if they had birthday presents for the king.”

Donald Trump, not Ivanka Trump, was Trudeau’s original invitee to the play, communications director Kate Purchase said. Trump told Trudeau he couldn’t make it, Purchase said, “but suggested that perhaps Ivanka Trump could join instead.”

“We were happy to arrange that,” she said.

“We’re friends and neighbours, partners and allies. We are committed to continuing to build on that relationship in a positive, constructive way. That means talking to U.S. senators, members of Congress, governors, Cabinet secretaries, business leaders, and importantly: the president and those close to him.”

Ivanka Trump has been portrayed in anonymously sourced stories as a powerful figure in the administration, a kind of de facto first lady. In February, Politico reported that she helped convince her father not to roll back protections for LGBT people. In March, Reuters reported that she was “a key advocate for the more measured, less combative tone” he adopted in his address to Congress.

Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau greet people after watching "Come From Away" in New York on Wednesday night.
Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau greet people after watching “Come From Away” in New York on Wednesday night.  (SAM HODGSON)  

But there is considerable skepticism in Washington that the leaks are anything other than self-serving public relations — and that Ivanka Trump has either the inclination or the ability to push her father toward moderation. The president has so far pursued a hard-right agenda that has betrayed few hints of liberal influence.

“Ivanka’s the only one of his children I think he listens to. But it’s just very, very small, and around the edges,” said Joshua Kendall, author of the book First Dads, about presidents as parents. “I think every once in a while he pays a little lip service to child-care, but I think those tiny inroads have led to sort of a feeding frenzy. Everyone says, ‘Maybe we can go much further than that.’ And I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

It is not only the president with whom Ivanka Trump might help Trudeau. Her husband, Jared Kushner, has emerged as one of the most powerful people in the country. As Donald Trump sidelines the professional diplomatic corps, Kushner, a 36-year-old with no government experience, has been shovelled responsibilities that range from soothing Mexico to striking Middle East peace.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, praised Trudeau for astute “realpolitik,” saying his rapport with Ivanka Trump serves Canadian interests. But the NDP has criticized his friendly posture toward a president whose policies foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière calls “racist.”

“Justin Trudeau took Ivanka Trump to an excellent Canadian play about kindness to strangers. It’s a play President Trump really should see. However, Trudeau continues to give Trump and his family political cover,” Laverdière said.

Trudeau’s early work with Ivanka Trump has paid at least superficial dividends. Trump boasted in his high-profile address to Congress of the new Canada-U.S. council on women in business; Trudeau was the only foreign leader he mentioned by name.

The council was an invention of Trudeau’s office designed specifically to include Ivanka Trump. She sat next to him at the inaugural meeting at the White House in February, cameras clicking away. Their Broadway appearance made new international headlines — some of the stories wrongly framing it as a quasi-date, omitting the presence of Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Comments Off on Trudeau, Ivanka Trump and Come From Away

NAFTA and the Next Election

The next big federal election agenda item has been set: Trump and trade

By the time Canadians next go to the polls, all the players will be lined up to fight over the biggest trade agreement in a generation

US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 13, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Here we go again. Another federal election that will hinge on free trade.

This is not so much a prediction as it is a simple matter of following the timelines. By 2019, the next federal election, the NAFTA re-negotiations will either be in the dramatic end game or the very contentious ratification phase. The Liberal government will be consumed by the deal, as it already is today. The Conservatives and the NDP will both have new leaders desperate to define themselves by the biggest economic deal of a  generation. What to protect and what to give up? Unions will want a new deal on car manufacturing and will try to stick it to Mexico. Dairy farmers in Quebec will be fighting for supply management. You will hear the phrase “country of label origins” so often it will sound like the name of a band. Softwood lumber, beef, pharmaceuticals—oh, the lawyers are already priapic at the possibilities. We’ll even have the soundtrack of Brian Mulroney singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to Donald Trump. Get ready to negotiate like it’s 1988.

“At the earliest I think the renegotiation—with or without Mexico—will take at least a year, probably 19 months,” says Colin Robertson, the vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former diplomat who implemented NAFTA back in 1993. “After that we have to go for ratification, which adds on another year plus. My guess is that NAFTA, or whatever we call it, doesn’t get wrapped up until spring or summer 2019, meaning it will be front and centre in our October 2019 election.”

READ MORE: A Trump trade war with Mexico would be a disaster for both sides

But wait. Isn’t this all supposed to unfold a lot quicker than that? Didn’t Donald Trump say this was just a matter of a few “tweaks”? How long could that take? Isn’t Trump all chummy with Justin Trudeau over their Women’s Business Council?

If you believe that then you might as well believe your microwave is spying on you. Just listen to the Trump people who are in charge of the NAFTA renegotiation. They are not predicting a trade war with us; they believe they are already in one. We just refuse to believe it.

“We’ve been in a trade war for decades,” new U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg News recently, as he clarified why the U.S. is launching a radical series of trade negotiations that will include a head-on collision with China and ripping up NAFTA. Comparing trade negotiations to war is standard fare for the Trump administration, where hyperbolic, confrontational rhetoric is the vernacular. Turns out the art of the deal is really a euphemism for an eye-gouging brawl.

Ross and Trump are obsessed with the dangers of trade deficits. It is their white whale and they’re likely just as mythical. The fact is, most economists agree that trade deficits are not necessarily bad for the U.S. economy nor do they reflect some camouflaged version of a trade war, as Ross asserts. There are many reasons why the U.S. imports more than it exports, and some of those reasons actually help the economy. But billionaires like Trump and Ross don’t trifle with details. Every minor issue is elevated to its maximum threat level, so a trade imbalance becomes a trade war. That’s why when Trump casually remarked that the coming changes to NAFTA will merely be “tweaks,” he was so off brand. Trumps don’t tweak, they transform—or, at least, they say they will. Ross has now corrected the record. “It’s not going to be a shooting war,” he continued to Bloomberg, as if the bench mark for an acceptable negotiation was merely a lack of bullets. “If people know you have the big bazooka, you probably don’t have to use it.”

So there it is. Either Wilbur Ross has a bazooka in his trade pocket or he’s just really excited to negotiate with Canada. Whatever it is: by his own admission, a trade war is coming. That warning was reiterated this week during the confirmation hearing for Robert Lighthizer, the incoming trade secretary. Both Republicans and Democrats pressed him to crack down on trade with Canada, including digital piracy, counterfeit products and softwood lumber. “I’ve had a variety of issues with respect to Canada that have been raised by senators,” Lighthizer said. “There are a number of things we have to address with respect to Canada.”

None of this is a surprise to Team Trudeau. They have done the pragmatic thing and fanned out across the U.S. this week like the snowstorm Stella itself—blanketing politicians with information about the benefits of an open border and free trade with Canada. To their credit, they have not been lulled into complacency by the purring of the Trump lions. They have set up a special Trump team inside the PMO, shuffled the cabinet to get competent and connected people like Chrystia Freeland and Andrew Leslie in key spots, and taken advice from everyone who can help, from Derek Burney to Brian Mulroney. Conservatives I have spoken to have grudgingly acknowledged that the PM is doing all the right things.

The only person griping is NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who believes that unless Trudeau is out there calling Trump a fascist, he’s nothing more than a quisling. Mulcair can say stuff like this because he’s now in his Easy Rider phase, wildly gunning it down the last miles of his political highway and sticking it to the man. Go man go. He deserved better from his party and if he wants to bring back some hippie anger to the NDP, damn the consequences.

READ MORE: Why Canada—and its economy—has plenty to fear from Trump

For the Prime Minister, though, all things must be put through the political calculator, especially with Canada’s largest trading partner. We don’t get to pick the U.S. President any more than we pick our own parents, so Trudeau’s tactical charm offensive is a legitimate response. This week the Prime Minister is in New York to reinforce the close bond of Canada and the U.S. during 9/11. Last week he was in Texas at an energy conference talking about oil. Meanwhile, other ministers, MPs and premiers are hitting 11 states, from Kentucky to Wisconsin, Indiana to Florida. It’s better to jaw-jaw than war-war, as Winston Churchill liked to say.

The problem is, it might not make much difference. The next election will still be about the trade deal: What was won, what was lost, what concessions were made, what victories were gained. Look at the timeline. The President needs to gives Congress 90 days’ notification in order to kick start the renegotiation of NAFTA, but he can’t rush too much because Wilbur Ross’s team still isn’t in place. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s follow Ross’s “bazooka approach”—the fast-track option—and assume the President gives notice in the next few weeks. Then what?

Here are the blocks of time you have to bake into the process at the bare minimum. Congress needs 180 days’ warning before signing the deal, as the Globe and Mail has reported, and another 105 days for the International Trade Commission to look over the deal and put out a report. Then there is another 6o-day period for amendments. That’s already 435 days, deep into 2018—and that’s if everything goes smoothly.

No serious person thinks it will go smoothly, even if Congress tries to fast-track the timelines. Contentious issues like softwood lumber, automobiles and, wait for it, water, could blow this thing up. The free trade deal with the European Union took years and it was almost derailed by the Walloons. We don’t even know who the U.S. version of the Walloons will be, but in America, Walloons are super-sized, so expect a few hurdles. Just look back at the former trade deals with the U.S. as precedent.

“We finished negotiations of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in October 1987 and then made some more changes in December before signature in January 1988,” says Robertson. “Then we fought an election on it. Then on NAFTA we finished negotiations in early 1993 and put it through the implementing legislation, finishing in June 1993. Then came the October election and we had to do the labour and environmental accords. Clinton only got the U.S. Congress to pass it in November 1993, a year after he was elected and signed in December.”

Talking to Robertson about trade timelines makes a mockery of the idea that there are simple tweaks out there. There aren’t. The first U.S.–Canada Free Trade Agreement took four years. When we brought in Mexico to make it NAFTA, it took another four years. The Trans Pacific Partnership, which Trump just crushed, has been 11 years in the making. People talk about the Doha Development Round, which started in 2001, as if was a mythical character in a box-office flop called Fantastic Trade Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Saul Loeb/Getty

Let’s add one more wrinkle here: Washington gridlock. Even though Republicans control the House, the Senate and the presidency, the debate over replacing Obamacare has revealed the unified government to be more like a dysfunctional family at a Christmas dinner. “Trump is no Lyndon Johnson,” says Robertson, “and while he is better than Obama at working congressional leadership, my friends tell me there are already antagonisms at the staff level between the Speaker/majority leader in the Senate and the White House.” Pass the gravy.

READ MORE: Trudeau can’t afford to just play Trump one-on-one

Not everyone thinks it will go this long. I spoke with Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chretien’s former senior political advisor, who believes the process could wrap up faster. “The Trump Administration will do its best to finish before the midterms in the U.S., so it is unlikely that the negotiations will be continuing during the next Canadian election campaign,” he says. Maybe. But as Robertson points out, the implementation and ratification will take another year-plus. “If there is any election issue,” Goldenberg says, “it will be about the government’s record—positive or negative—with respect to the outcome of the negotiations.”

That is true and the battle lines will quickly be drawn. The NDP needs to regain the union vote as it tacks back to the left and will likely oppose much of the deal unless it is radically changed to protect Canadian jobs, something no one here has signalled. But until Jack Layton, opposing free trade was the ticket to the NDP’s best success, and that formula will no doubt be back. The Conservatives are in a full identity crisis now, and will have to figure out if they want to play tough with the U.S. and go back to the Sir John A. MacDonald days of a National Policy—essentially copying Trump’s Buy American stance with a Buy Canadian—or if they want to follow the pro-free trade Mulroney-Harper path, which is more likely but offers less differentiation from the Liberals. Either way, the free trade deal will be the target. Everyone better grab a bazooka.

Trade with the U.S. has defined many Canadian elections, from 1867 to 1911 to 1988. Might as well get ready now and pencil in 2019 as another election fought over free trade.

Comments Off on NAFTA and the Next Election