Retaliation on Trade

Republicans pressure Trump to drop tariffs after Trudeau retaliation, but it might not matter, say U.S. trade watchers

By PETER MAZEREEUW      
‘Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,’ says ex-Democratic U.S. trade representative Mickey Kantor.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, announced plans on May 31 to bring in retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. exports to Canada, beginning July 1, if President Donald Trump’s administration did not reverse newly-imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade

Republican lawmakers are pushing back against U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., likely making the case that the move could pave the road to his impeachment, say a former trade adviser to U.S. politicians and a Canadian lobbyist tracking the trade battle.

“The only hope there is the Republican leadership gets inside the head of the administration to say, ‘Whatever you’re trying to achieve, you’re going to lose the House in November. And if you lose the House in November, we’re immediately into questions of impeachment,’” said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, a lobby group for an industry that relies on steel and aluminum crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

“That’s an argument they’ll certainly make,” said a former trade adviser to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, adding, “I don’t think that it will cause the president to withdraw the tariffs.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) could hardly have hoped for a better outcome after he responded to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the EU by imposing retaliatory penalties—effective July 1—on U.S. steel and aluminum, and a variety of other goods produced in U.S. swing states or the electoral districts of influential Republican lawmakers. Numerous Republican politicians have openly spoken against Mr. Trump’s decision, U.S. industry groups have done the same, and even the powerful conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, including Americans For Prosperity, are campaigning against Mr. Trump’s tariffs.

It’s not clear to what extent the Republican backlash is related to Canada’s counter-tariffs, however. Several lobbyists and analysts following U.S. trade issues closely said the penalties brought in by Canada’s government have created some pressure on Republicans and the White House, as intended, by hitting the pocketbooks of businesses that export to Canada and are represented by Republican lawmakers. But some of the politicians who have spoken out or taken action against the tariffs—including Republican House speaker Paul Ryan, who was targeted by Canada’s counter-tariffs, and the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker—have already said they won’t run for re-election, theoretically diminishing the threat unhappy constituents would pose to them.

“Clearly across the country, in many places, what they have done is going to adversely affect campaigns for Republicans in the House and Senate where the Democrats have a chance, certainly to win the House, if not the Senate,” said Mickey Kantor, who served as the U.S. trade representative, the highest-ranking trade official in the government, under former Democratic president Bill Clinton.

“And that’s exactly what puts the Republicans under pressure. Now, whether that can pressure this president, is quite another question,” he said.

“Whether or not you can pressure an administration that has no policy, no direction, and no philosophy, I don’t know,” he said.

Mr. Trump took aim squarely at Canada after the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec last weekend, and a closing press conference in which Mr. Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t be pushed around by the U.S. on trade. Mr. Trump fired off a series of tweets in which he called Mr. Trudeau “meek and mild” and “dishonest and weak.” He left the G7 summit early, refusing to sign onto declarations about reducing plastic waste and climate change.

Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, appeared on CNN Sunday that Mr. Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox News “there’ a special place in hell for for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J.  Trump,” referencing Mr. Trudeau.

‘Dicey’ for Republicans to take on Trump

The Democrats are thought to have a strong chance of taking back majority control of the House from the Republicans in November’s mid-term elections, needing to win 24 Republican seats while keeping their own, with the party polling well and more Republican-held seats appearing vulnerable than those held by Democrats, according to reporting from The Financial TimesThe New York Times, CNN, Fivethirtyeight.com, and others.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign, once completed, could produce evidence that Democrats could use to begin impeachment proceedings. If a majority of House members vote to impeach, the U.S. Senate would ultimately decide whether to accept that decision. Two-thirds of Senators would have to vote in favour of impeachment, The New York Times reported. The Republicans have a majority in the Senate, however, and are thought to have a good chance at holding it after the midterms.

“I’m not sure that he is convinced” that impeachment is a realistic outcome, said the former trade adviser, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis. “And at the end of the day, he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Republicans vying for re-election are under pressure to support Mr. Trump’s actions, as the president can undermine their bids to stay in office by backing their challengers for the Republican nomination, which is not automatically awarded to incumbents, said Maryscott Greenwood, the CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, a government relations consultant at Dentons’ in Washington, and a former U.S. diplomat to Canada.

“That’s why it’s dicey to take him on,” she said.

“What [Mr. Trump] is doing is politically popular in the Republican base among Trump voters,” she added.

Mr. Trump’s White House team is digging into the “loyalty” of Republican members of Congress as it decides which races Mr. Trump should lend his support to, or not, CNN reported last week.  The White House is also considering doubling down, and imposing additional trade penalties on Canada in response to Mr. Trudeau’s retaliatory tariffs, The Washington Postreported last week.

Some Republicans may not feel pressured to react to Canada’s threat of counter-tariffs until it becomes a reality, and businesses in their district start to feel financial pain, said Ms. Greenwood.

Bill Huizenga, the Republican representative for Michigan’s second district, told The Hill Times that delay could be a reality for some lawmakers, but “for some of us it’s very ripe and we want to deal with it.”

“Some polling will say that people are in favour of this, and the population are in favour of this, but part of that might be they haven’t seen some of the ramifications of it. I’m not just talking with Canada and NAFTA. I’m talking larger scale,” he said.

“What I have expressed both publicly and privately is that I’m afraid that the actions from the [U.S.] administration, while they may be well meaning, are a misguided effort to recapture a world that really no longer exists that way that it once did.”

Republican Senator brings bill to rein in president

Sen. Corker made a splash last week by introducing a bill that would force the president to seek approval from Congress before introducing tariffs under national security provisions of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which Mr. Trump used to bring in the penalties against steel and aluminum from Canada and other countries.

That bill would apply to any decisions made in the past two years as well, essentially giving Congress a veto over Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Canada. Sen. Corker has support from nine other Senators in both parties, The Denver Post reported. The bill has a tough road ahead, however. Time to pass it before the midterms is running short, with a summer break looming. The former trade adviser said the bill was unlikely to attract enough support from Republicans—wary of a backlash from Mr. Trump—and Democrats, some of whom are protectionist, and favour U.S. trade restrictions.

Mr. Trump called Sen. Corker on the day he introduced the legislation, and the two had what the Senator described as a “lengthy” and “heartfelt” conversation, CNN reported. Mr. Trump would have the power to veto the legislation if it advanced through both chambers of Congress.

Mr. Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, also urged the president to exempt Canada from the steel and aluminum tariffs, ABC News reported last week, after Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterparts in the G7 issued a statement urging him to do so.

Mr. Trump hasn’t shown signs of backing down yet, tweeting late last week that Mr. Trudeau was “being so indignant” and that Canada’s protected dairy sector was “killing our agriculture.”

“Trudeau has no option but to retaliate,” said Mr. Kantor. “Simply because, for domestic purposes, if not anything else, I would assume that the business community and regular folks in Canada are upset at what the U.S. has done and demand that Canada respond.”

Editor’s note: this story was updated online to include the outcome of the G7 summit that ended June 9.

peter@hilltimes.com

@PJMazereeuw

Who put Canada’s tariff list together, and how

Canada’s list of retaliatory tariffs includes 44 categories of steel and aluminum products—a tit-for-tat response to the U.S. tariffs on Canada—and 84 categories of other products, ranging from playing cards to yogurt.

Those other categories in particular were strategically selected by Canadian officials to put pressure on businesses in the electoral districts of influential U.S. Senators and representatives, particularly Republicans.

Public servants in Global Affairs Canada, including in the U.S. embassy and consulates, worked with peers in the Finance, Agriculture, and Innovation departments to assemble the list, according to Global Affairs spokesperson John Babcock. The offices of the ministers for those departments and the PMO and PCO were also involved, he said.

The government tried to ensure the products being considered for inclusion on the list were finished products, and therefore unlikely to be materials Canadian companies rely upon to make their own goods, and to ensure that non-U.S. alternatives were easily accessible for Canadian consumers, said an official from Global Affairs, speaking on background.

Staff in Global Affairs and the Canadian embassy and consulates would have brought in the knowledge of which states exported which products, said Peter Clark, a trade-focused consultant at Grey, Clark, Shih, and Associates and a former trade official for the Canadian government.

“The steel items are a no-brainer—they simply  copied the U.S. list and invited Canadians to comment to ensure they can avoid injury to Canada,” he said.

Canada has sharpened its approach to assembling these retaliatory tariff lists over the years, said Colin Robertson, a vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former Canadian diplomat in the U.S.. Mr. Robertson said he was involved with similar efforts related to softwood lumber disputes in the 1990s and mid-2000s.

“We worked closely with Finance and Industry [Canada] and our own sector specialists. We did not reach out to consulates,” he said in an emailed statement. “We also have more data crunching capacity today to figure out where goods are produced and link it to congressional districts and states.”

Canada’s last government under prime minister Stephen Harper took a more thorough approach to assembling a list of retaliatory tariffs after the Obama administration supported Country of Origin Labelling requirements—commonly abbreviated to COOL—for Canadian meat.

Finance Canada is responsible for tariffs, and took the lead on assembling the COOL list, said Adam Taylor, a trade consultant for Export Action Global who was working as a senior staffer for then-trade minister, now Conservative MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford, B.C.).

“The bureaucracy are best equipped to know that stuff, because our embassy is supposed to track who’s influential with the administration,” and who you can “raise the ire of” if you need leverage, said Mr. Taylor.

The list of counter-tariffs included orange juice, targeting Florida, an important swing state where Republican Governor Rick Scott is challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson for his seat; whisky, targeting Kentucky, the home of Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell; yogurt, targeting Republican House speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, the second-largest exporter of the product to Canada among U.S. states, after New York; and more.

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Canada USA Relations

‘It’s a very dangerous political place to be for the Conservative Party,’ Ambrose warns Tories not to attack Liberals on NAFTA

By JOLSON LIM      
NAFTA advisory council member Rona Ambrose and other panelists also paint a gloomy picture of future Canada-U.S. trade relations and of U.S. President Donald Trump’s impact on the free trade consensus.
Moderator Colin Robertson, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, and former Chrétien-era communications director Peter Donolo, pictured May 8 on a panel at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute conference at the Rideau Club. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

OTTAWA—Former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is warning the federal Tories to watch their attacks on the Liberals over the crucial NAFTA renegotiations because it could make them look “anti-Canada” which is not a big “vote-getter.”

“It’s a very dangerous political place to be for the Conservative Party of Canada to attack the Liberal government, which is working hard to come to a deal that’s in the best interest of Canada,” she told a packed room Monday at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute conference at the Rideau Club. “That would mean almost like you’re having to look like you’re taking the other side, which is Donald Trump’s side. That is not a politically smart place to be.”

Ms. Ambrose, who is now a Liberal-government-tapped member of the NAFTA Advisory Council and is based in Washington, D.C., with the Wilson Centre, said the NAFTA issue doesn’t garner a lot of votes and it isn’t a No. 1 issue for constituents or even the No. 10 issue. Ms. Ambrose was speaking at a panel discussion called ‘Positioning Canada in the Shifting International Oder.’ The panel focused on managing Mr. Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to foreign affairs and international trade, moderated by former diplomat Colin Robertson.

Ms. Ambrose was responding to Peter Donolo, former longtime communications director to former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who told the same audience that he believed the political consensus on NAFTA will eventually disappear and that Canada-U.S. relations will become a “live issue” again.

He said U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to politics, often based on demonstrating “his opponent’s face has been grounded into the dirt” and humiliated, will not go over well with Canadian politicians.

“The term win-win is not in Mr. Trump’s lexicon,” said Mr. Donolo, now vice-chairman of Hill and Knowlton in Toronto. “I don’t think Mr. Scheer or Mr. Singh, who have been part of this elite consensus on NAFTA negotiations, are then going to congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau and his government for a great deal on the NAFTA renegotiation when that’s not the way politics works.”

Mr. Donolo predicted the political atmosphere is going to look like how it was when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, when political parties were split on whether to participate in the conflict.

He pointed to how Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and actions have swayed Mexican politics, where leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador is now leading in polls and is running on challenging Mr. Trump.

“There will be firm sides drawn and there won’t be a national consensus issue; where it will end, I don’t know. It’s not a healthy development.”

Ms. Ambrose, Mr. Donolo, and Jean Charest, former Quebec premier and Progressive Conservative leader, all spoke in Ottawa while Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) and trade officials are in Washington for another critical round of talks, the last such discussions before renegotiations are halted to accommodate for presidential elections in Mexico in July and the midterm congressional race in the U.S. in November.

The negotiations fall under a global political backdrop of right-wing, populist, and trade-skeptic movements rising in many western democracies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

But in Canada, conservative politicians haven’t swung to the hard right and remain enthusiastically supportive of free trade, despite the belief, including from Ms. Ambrose, that movements in other countries have influenced some Canadians.

While Ms. Ambrose said she remains optimistic that a trade deal can be reached, she also painted a gloomy picture of Canada-U.S. relations, even if Mr. Trump doesn’t receive a second term in 2020.

“This romantic notion that the Americans are our best friends and biggest allies; that’s not the reality anymore,” she said.

“That’s not how they’re treating us in the trade arena. It’s how they’re treating us in other arenas. And it speaks to the fact we have to recognize their agenda, when it comes to ‘America First,’ is Canada is not just second, Canada’s maybe third, fourth, or maybe fifth down the line.”

Ms. Ambrose also said she doesn’t believe that Mr. Trump’s politics will be confined to one-term or that he’s a one-off politician the country won’t ever see again.

“I think the people who support him are alive and well and in fact growing, the type of politician that he is. We see some of these elements right in our own country. We see it in a number of western democratic countries,” she said.

But she also noted that a recent deal between the U.S. and South Korea was celebrated as a victory by both governments, possibly signalling that the Trump administration won’t take as hardline of an approach to trade deals in the future.

Ms. Ambrose said striking a deal on auto parts in the ongoing round of negotiations would mark a major breakthrough because it would give Mr. Trump a major political victory and a win for his political base, located in the country’s industrial heartland.

“If we can get something around autos, which is the absolutely sweet spot for Donald Trump…I think that is a win-win for Canada and the U.S.,” Ms. Ambrose said. “And I don’t think we’ll see him rub our faces in the dirt over that.”

Ms. Ambrose said Trump voters don’t care about wonkier issues such as the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism, but striking a deal on auto parts will leave negotiations in better shape heading into election season.

“I’m a little more optimistic if those are the last things on the table,” she said. “As a politician, you’re looking at these things and going ‘Okay, we really want to get rid of Chapter 19, but what is that going to gain me in the states where I need votes.’ Not much because they don’t even understand it.”

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Poison Pills and Montreal Round

Poison pills and protectionism:

negotiators still face long list of

issues in next NAFTA round

 

As negotiators head to Montreal next week for the sixth round
of negotiations,
here’s an overview
of the issues in play.

BY SAMANTHA WRIGHT ALLEN

Last week, trade observers could be forgiven for feeling whiplash after reports swung from Canadian advisers expecting an imminent United States withdraw- al from NAFTA to U.S. President Donald Trump musing negotia- tions could continue past Mexico’s July presidential election.

The fifth round of negotia- tions in November was supposed to be a ministerial meeting, but was a dialled back to technical discussions after an acrimonious fourth round saw the Americans present several non-starters from the Canadian perspective—what Canada’s chief negotiator Steve Verheul told Parliamentarians last month were“extreme proposals.”

While there is“emerging agreement”on the less controver- sial ideas, like updating NAFTA for the digital age, the status of five issues commonly referred to as“poison pills”remain anyone’s guess, said John Weekes, Can- ada’s NAFTA negotiator from 1991 to 1994, who currently sits on a government advisory panel alongside other trade experts.

“This is seen as a bit of a make- or-break session,”said Mr.Weekes, noting Canada’s initial negotiating position appeared to be that the poi- son pills were so unacceptable, they weren’t prepared to engage.

Here is a list of the trade is- sues still in play:

The poison pills

Autos, rules of origin

The America First approach of the U.S. administration is perhaps most apparent in its fourth-round demand that 50 per cent of con- tent in vehicles be U.S. based in order to cross borders tariff-free. It also raises the NAFTA-country content to 85 per cent from the current 62.5 percentage require- ment in vehicles travelling duty- free between the three partners.

Before a House committee in the fall, Mr.Verheul told members the plan is“wholly unworkable.” The proposal has also been re- jected by Mexico and panned by that country’s auto lobby.

Insiders say Canadian indus- try—especially big auto and big la-

bour—are in line with the govern- ment, pushing against the U.S. ask. Unifor president Jerry Dias said agreeing would be the “death knell of so many different industries” and that on NAFTA content, Canada could live with 75 per cent but will “never agree” to half American.

But Mr. Weekes said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Canada counter with“practical changes”to rules of origin given the tracing list cov-
ers components that are no longer found in cars and fails to cover items invented in the last two de- cades. The Globe and Mail reported last week Canada’s negotiating team is working on a proposal
to increase the amount of North American-made content to address the contentious American ask.

The auto trade is probably the best example of North America making things together, said for- mer diplomat Colin Robertson in a Canadian Global Affairs Institute primer prepared for the Montreal round, because “building auto parts and components … rely on supply chains that crisscross the borders.”

For example, Ontario-based Magna employs 62,000 Ameri- cans, 22,000 Mexicans—far more than the 20,000 Canadians.The CEO has dubbed the proposal
a “lose-lose-lose”situation for North American car companies.

Supply management

Canada’s supply management system has been a no-go zone in trade agreements, but the NAFTA negotiations nevertheless squarely centred the hot-button issue. For decades Canada’s protectionist approach has set quotas and prices for local farmers, controlling the supply of milk, eggs and meat from turkeys and chickens. It tacks a 270 per cent duty on imports out- side of set amounts, an approach Mr. Trump has targeted as “very unfair.” Under his hand, American negotiators have called on Canada to eliminate those tariffs and the controlled flow of goods.

Mr.Trudeau’s key cabinet offi- cials on the file—Agriculture Minis- ter Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan,

Steve Verheul, chief negotiator for NAFTA with colleague Dany Carriere appeared before the

House Standing Committee on International Trade in December, updating Parliamentarians on several proposals he considered ‘unworkable.’

The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

P.E.I.) and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland—have held firm, with the Ms. Freeland (University- Rosedale, Ont.) telling a committee when negotiations launched last summer, Canada is“fully commit- ted”to saving supply management, making it part of her first speech on Canada’s NAFTA objectives.

Canada faced some of the tough- est farm lobbies in Europe, yet still emerged with both the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and
the supply management intact, noted Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal Paul Moen, a former Liberal trade adviser. There was some movement, however, with an increase of 16,000 tonnes of duty- free fine cheeses and 1,700 duty- free tonnes of cheese marked for industrial food processing cheese, so observers say something similar could be on the table with NAFTA, but only in the context of toned- down expectations from the U.S. And, if any further quota erosion is offered in NAFTA, Mr. Moen said to expect an assistance package (like the Conservatives offered to coun-

Canada’s agriculture lobby is actively pushing Canada to hold its ground, with groups like the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Chicken Farmers of Canada regu- larly in the mix. Canada’s chief agricultural negotiator Frédéric Seppey is granting regular meet- ings, with 181 communication reports filed to his name with the lobbying commissioner’s office over the last year, compared to 184 for Mr.Verheul.

Sunset clause

An automatic NAFTA five-year renewal by positive agreement from the member countries—or a sunset clause—has been panned by Mexico, Canada and industry stake- holders for the uncertainty it would create for cross-border business.

Mr.Verheul in December said the U.S. proposal is“a rather large concern”and the three“can’t have an effective agreement”if it could expire, noting that businesses need a“fairly long horizon”to plan their investments.

“[A sunset clause is] going to put a significant chill on invest- ment, on planning, and on the strength of the agreement.”

Mr. Weekes said there could
be a way to engage with the proposal without ever consider- ing it as an option. Canada could counter with a softer option that encourages ongoing reviews to update the deal, investigate how it functions—which he thought the countries should have done more following the first NAFTA.

“Part of the reason we got to this point was political neglect, and particularly in the United States, and then it became fash- ionable to badmouth NAFTA when you were running for an election. It’s not surprising that a strong constituency developed

at the grassroots level,”said Mr. Weekes, noting it wasn’t just Mr. Trump who would talk down NAFTA; both former president Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took some issue with the agreement.

“They all campaigned on the need to change or reform or get rid of it.” He said he believes the coun-

tries should have been doing“a lot more”over the last two decades and that committees were origi- nally set up with that in mind.

“I thought [review] would hap- pen but it hasn’t really happened,” he said.“We don’t want a sunset clause but I think it would make a lot of sense to have regular politi- cal supervision to make sure the three countries are living up to their obligations.”

Dispute settlement

Also in dispute is NAFTA’s approach to dispute resolution, with Mr.Trump taking aim at the agreement’s approach, preferring all matters be dealt with by the U.S. trade remedy system.

Chapter 19, which deals with countervailing duties and anti- dumping, is“vital to Canada and Mexico,”said Mr. Robertson be- cause there would be no recourse otherwise.

“If we don’t get that, then we’re simply at the mercy of the American trade remedy system which we think is unfair.” Mr.Verheul told the House International Trade Committee in December the chapter has been “an effective instrument” for Can- ada, which has taken up 20 cases over the years leading to the U.S. changing its practices 13 times.

But several suggested it’s a phil- osophical debate at heart, and that Congress should reign supreme.

“The whole notion of a tribu- nal that’s non-American, [that would] judge the U.S. is complete- ly inconsistent to the Trumpian view,”said Mr. Moen.

Ms. Freeland said in August Canada wants to reform the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, or Chapter 11, which protects Canada’s ability to pass public interest regulations with- out the fear of corporate legal action. Canada is going after a CETA model where set judges adjudicate matters rather than ad- hoc appointees.

It’s seen the most pushback from American companies and Canada is already a target, facing more Chapter 11 lawsuits than any other country, according to a Globe and Mail report.

During the first NAFTA nego- tiations, Chapter 19 was almost a deal breaker, and insiders say it’s still a red line Canadian negotia- tors won’t cross.

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Iran and Diplomatic Relations

Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP expresses concern about Iranian protests but defers on re-establishing diplomatic ties

‘It’s important going forward, that all governments are in solidarity with the Iranians, that we judge the Iranian government not by their words but by their actions,’ says Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi.

Protests against the Iranian government in Kermanshah, Iran, on Dec. 29. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsBy JOLSON LIM

PUBLISHED :Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 3:50 PM

Iranian-Canadian rookie Liberal MP Ali Ehassi says the heavy-handed response to massive street protests against the government in Iran is “heart-wrenching” to watch, though remained tight-lipped on whether he continues to support efforts by the Trudeau government to reopen diplomatic ties with the country.

In an interview, Mr. Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.) told The Hill Times he’s closely following the situation in Iran, and believes that the interests and narratives propagated by the Iranian regime are different from those of the Iranian people.

“It’s important going forward, that all governments are in solidarity with the Iranians, that we judge the Iranian government not by their words but by their actions,” he said, noting that since the protests began, he has spoken to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) and members of the Iranian-Canadian community about the ongoing unrest.

Asked whether he supports his party’s view that Canada should re-establish formal diplomatic ties with Iran, Mr. Ehsassi said only that it’s “important” to reach out to members of the Iranian community in Canada.

“I think it’s important that Global Affairs Canada consults closely our allies around the world. I think it’s important to not jump to any conclusions prematurely,” he said, calling the protests against the Iranian government as “one of those moments where we may have to take stock of things.”

Mr. Ehsassi lived in Iran for five years as a child and comes from a family of Iranian diplomats and statesmen associated with Pahlavi dynasty. Following the 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty and brought to power a theocratic republic, his parents left the country and settled in Canada.

The first-term MP attended a rally in Toronto on Jan. 7 expressing solidarity with the protesters and their demands that also brought out Liberal MP Michael Levitt (York Centre, Ont.) and Conservative MP Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.). The protests, which began late last year, have seen thousands of Iranians take to the street to express anger with deteriorating economic conditions and government restrictions against public expression.

The Iranian government has responded by detaining demonstrators, censoring media coverage, and limiting access to social media channels that could potentially be used to help organize rallies, drawing stern criticism from the West. At least 21 people are believed to have died in the protests, while about 3,700 demonstrators have been detained, according to media reports.

Amid the protests, fellow Iranian-Canadian Liberal MP Mr. Jowhari (Richmond Hill, Ont.) drew criticism for posting a photo last month on Twitter of a statement from Ms. Freeland expressing hope that the protesters would be able to freely air their grievances with “support of its elected government.”

Conservative MP and party foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) called Mr. Jowhari’s actions “inappropriate,” and said the tweet was “a preposterous presentation.”

When reached, the office of Ms. Jowhari said he was unavailable for an interview and did not respond to requests for an email statement. The rookie MP represents a suburban Toronto riding that has the highest percentage of Iranians-Canadians.

It’s not the first time Mr. Jowhari has weathered allegations of supporting the interests of the Iranian regime.

He attracted criticism for meeting last year with an Iranian parliamentary delegation at his constituency office without the involvement of Global Affairs Canada. The meeting was purportedly about forming a Canada-Iran parliamentary friendship group, according to reporting by a Richmond Hill newspaper.

He was also slammed for allegedly stacking a meeting with then-Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and members of the Iranian-Canadian community with delegates supportive of Canada restoring diplomatic ties with the country, rather than those critical of the existing regime.

“I really worry when it appears that there’s positions taken with respect to foreign countries that aren’t within our national interest, that are being advanced by our MP, that’s inappropriate and the prime minister should call him on the carpet, I think, to see where his loyalty lies,” Mr. O’Toole told The Hill Times.

“There’s now been enough things that I’ve heard over the last year or so, mainly from Iranian-Canadian community that causes a lot of MPs’ concern.”

Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) president Bijan Ahmadi defended Mr. Jowhari, arguing the tweet was taken “out of context.”

He told The Hill Times that recent media coverage has unfairly portrayed Iranian-Canadians as a “monolithic community,” and claimed there haven’t been enough pro-diplomacy viewpoints in the public debate.

Ever since Mr. Jowhari began pushing for re-establishing diplomatic ties after he was elected in 2015, he started “getting these attacks from certain political groups, especially groups whose sole agenda is to isolate the Iranian government,” according to Mr. Ahmadi.

Mr. Ehsassi said he was out of the country during the holidays when Mr. Jowhari’s posted his tweet and couldn’t “shed light on what exactly he meant by his statement,” adding that he hasn’t spoken to him.

Asked about whether he and Mr. Jowhari had differences in opinion, Mr. Ehsassi said “I’m truly not aware of any individual who has identical views with me on any given issue. We all have different perspectives on issues.”

He wouldn’t say whether he believed criticisms hurled at Mr. Jowhari are unfair.

“What I can say, as an MP, I think each and every single one of us is supposed to try the best to their ability to talk to our constituents. I never try to pass my own judgement onto others. Our job is to advocate on behalf of our constituents,” he said.

Canadian government denies Iranian media report hinting at new meetings

Last month, Iranian media quoted a senior government official saying that the country would be sending a delegation “at the directorate general level” to Canada in the new year.

However, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Brittany Venhola-Fletcher told The Hill Times there are no plans for any future meetings with Canadian and Iranian officials in Canada.

“There are ongoing discussions, but no timeline has been established and no meetings have been confirmed. Discussions have taken place among officials and at the ministerial level. Minister Freeland has spoken with Foreign Minister Zarif, including at the UN General Assembly in New York,” she explained.

She also stated that there had been no meetings to discuss re-establishing diplomatic ties ever held in Canada.

In October and May, Canadian officials travelled to Tehran to hold talks with the Iranian government. However, the Canadian government cautioned that many issues needed to be addressed before Canada could open an mission in the Persian country.

Five rounds of talks have already been held between the two countries at the expert level, Mr. Keshavarzzadeh, the general director of American affairs in the country’s foreign ministry, told Mehr news agency on Dec. 16, though Global Affairs Canada has not confirmed that.

When asked about the effect of the protests on negotiations, Ms. Venhola-Fletche referred to Mr. Freeland’s previous statement calling direct engagement with the Iranian regime as the “most effective tool to hold Iran to account,” though expressing concern about the government’s crackdown of freedom of expression and support of known terrorist organizations.

Opponents of diplomatic engagement have decried the Iranian regime for its litany of human rights abuses, suggesting the recent unrest serving as an example of why Canada should back out of re-engagement. Supporters have argued that the Iranian-Canadians are cut off from much-needed consular services and that it’s more productive to engage with the regime diplomatically than not.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told The Hill Times that protests against the Iranian government wouldn’t threaten to derail the dialogue on re-establishing diplomatic ties because the government sees human rights and diplomatic re-engagement as “two separate tracks.”

“It’s consistent with the Trudeau approach to engagement and commitment to multilateralism,” he said, noting that Canada, despite applying sanctions on Russia, still has diplomatic relations with the Kremlin.

Mr. O’Toole called on Canada to reassess any decision towards re-establishing diplomatic ties, saying it would be used by the Iranian regime in “propaganda efforts” to further its interests in the Middle East.

However, Mr. Ahmadi said if there is any reassessment by Canadian officials, it would only “re-confirm that we need to be in Iran.”

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Negotiating NAFTA: How it works

Behind the scenes of how Canada’s ‘dream team’ negotiates NAFTA

Chief negotiator Steve Verheul, and Canada’s top two officials in Washington, David MacNaughton and Kirsten Hillman, are among the dozens involved in the sensitive trade talks, which see negotiators holed up in a different North American capital’s hotel board rooms every few weeks to hash out the text.

Mexico’s Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer exit a press briefing during the third round of negotiations to rework NAFTA.The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

PUBLISHED :Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Every few weeks this fall, roughly 300 Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans descend on a hotel in one of their respective capitals for about five days. While lobbyists chat in the hotel coffee shop or restaurant and reporters troll for tidbits of news, trade negotiators are holed up in hotel board rooms, sometimes 20 to a room, hashing out how to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement, at times until the wee hours of the morning.

The hundreds of Canadians working on the highly secretive NAFTA renegotiation operate largely behind the scenes and work on a need-to-know basis, but the talks nevertheless follow a formula familiar to the experienced team, say trade experts.

“There’s a considerable effort to keep things fairly quiet in public,” said Queen’s University professor emeritus Robert Wolfe, adding the relatively few leaks to media on Canadian strategy is no mistake.

Representatives of businesses and other groups getting updates or serving in advisory roles have signed non-disclosure agreements.

The negotiations, ongoing since August, involve 28 “tables” or negotiating rooms, each hashing out what will likely become a chapter in the final deal’s text.

These NAFTA talks are different from past trade talks in that the time between rounds is only a few weeks, whereas in other talks it might be months. Also, the politicians leading the talks from the three countries fly in for the end of each round, typically dining with each other, sitting down for formal meetings, and approving a joint communiqué on what was accomplished.

During the latest round, the fourth, in a Washington-area hotel, negotiators seemed to have finished the low-hanging fruit where the three countries could easily agree, and moved on to stickier subjects. “Substantially all” initial text proposals have been tabled, according to the three sides’ joint communiqué at the end of the round.

Canada, the United States, and Mexico have touted progress after effectively closing chapters on small- and medium-sized enterprises and competition, but tensions grew in the fourth round, which ended Oct. 17, as American negotiators were accused of pushing non-starters and United States President Donald Trump mused again about pulling out of the deal if his country doesn’t get what it wants.

After the breakneck speed of initial negotiations, there will now be more time in between, the communiqué said, with Mexico set to host the fifth round of talks in Mexico City from Nov. 17-21. More negotiating rounds will be scheduled through the first quarter of 2018.

Based on past practice, like with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, there wouldn’t be many Canadians involved who know very much of the big-picture details, and Mr. Wolfe’s sense is with NAFTA even less are in the loop.

“They are being very careful. They really do not want to negotiate in public, they really do not want something being said in Ottawa that could cause a firestorm in the White House because there’s a completely unpredictable negotiating environment.”

It’s a necessity born of the alchemy of several factors: a tight timeline ahead of 2018 elections in Mexico and U.S., the intensity of interest in Canada, and the volatile situation under Mr. Trump and his America-first rhetoric.

 

The tables

The chief negotiators’ table seems to meet all the time during a round, observers noted, made up of John Melle of the United States, Kenneth Smith of Mexico, and Canada’s Steve Verheul. They also would have met early on to determine the topics each table would focus on—which are likely to become the chapters of the deal’s text.

Each table, or negotiating room, works with the text in their chapter alone, while the chief negotiators carry with them the full text and will cover the contentious issues. They usually meet at the beginning and end of the day to debrief with their table leads and funnel key information up to the political leads, in Canada’s case Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.). Sometimes a chief negotiator might interrupt a head of one table if their discussion becomes relevant, but “they try and do it in tandem so they’re not upsetting the process,” said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross circulated a list of 28 topics not previously made public. Global Affairs Canada did not respond to confirm if the list was accurate, after some observers noted oddities, namely the lumping of trade remedies in with dispute settlement and a “securities annex,” which sources told Inside U.S. Trade was not a topic being covered in the talks or something the three countries were looking to include in a new deal.

Other topics included agriculture, customs, energy, environment, digital trade, intellectual property, labour, rules of origin, and technical barriers to trade. While there is a table on gender, which Canada said was a priority, a chapter dedicated to Indigenous people was absent. That’s likely still being handled at the chief negotiators’ table, said Mr. Wolfe.

As much as Canada may publicly push for the above goals and environmental standards, the reality is defensive issues are taking the top spot, said Ottawa-based trade strategist Peter Clark. Hotly contested issues are rules of origin, the review of Chapter 19’s dispute settlement, and supply management, which came into the crosshairs this week as the U.S. demanded its end, according to media reports.

Most of the tables are working from a single unified text, with sections in square brackets highlighting separate language where the sides disagree. A particular clause could have three different versions, or perhaps two, if only one is the odd country out on language agreement. The tables work off that piece of paper until they reach consensus, or one single text they all agree on.

Often the Canadian chapter heads managing each table would be from Global Affairs Canada, but also from the government department responsible for the area. That’s the case with Canada’s chief agriculture negotiator Frédéric Seppey, who observers note is in a uniquely—and historically—public position given the complexity of the highly technical file. Other negotiator names are not public and Global Affairs did not respond to a request for that list.

Other than the heads and their supporting staff, the hundred or so Canadians in Arlington, Va. supporting the negotiations this week didn’t divide into sectors. There are legal staff, regional and provincial experts, including those from the respective department or the embassy in Washington.

“They’re the resource people. They’re to help you from falling into [an] abyss,” Mr. Clark said, adding Canada’s Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton—the country’s quarterback when it comes to Congress—has a big team working for him, including his No. 2 Kirsten Hillman, deputy head of mission, who used to be Canada’s chief negotiator for the TPP.

“They’re aware where all of the bodies are buried, where Canada has leverage, which states are big suppliers to Canada. He puts it all together,” said Mr. Clark, referring to Mr. McNaughton. He was speaking last week from Washington where he said the sides were going in the rooms to negotiate late in the evening, often with at least half a dozen people from each country. By Sunday, he noted the pace of the meetings had slowed.

In an interview last month, Rideau Potomac Strategy Group president Eric Miller, a former vice-president with the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, called them the “dream team.” Ms. Hillman has the technical knowledge from her years working in trade, including on the TPP, and Mr. MacNaughton, while not a deep trade expert, has the “complete trust” of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.).

Both Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Robertson sit on a trade-experts council that acts as an advisory sounding board to the deputy minister of trade, who briefs the group periodically and seeks their views. There are also a number of advisory groups from various business sectors, Mr. Robertson added. Those groups likely have their own lawyers looking at the language of the deal and aware of the sensitivities.

“That’s why these things run over three or four days, because you are constantly checking back to verify,” Mr. Robertson said.

As much as the action is where the negotiating teams meet, there’s also that chain of check-ins and a fairly complex behind-the-scenes process in Ottawa to develop negotiating objectives and to ensure there is broad support within the government, Mr. Wolfe added.

Hotels make a good space for these sorts of negotiations, said Mr. Robertson, explaining in his experience how they would reorganize tables to fit in a big square or triangle to fit the three sides. Principal negotiators for each country would be in the front row, with those in supporting roles behind.

In this round, Mr. Clark said the board rooms can hold around 20 people.

“Each table will have its own dynamic and it is a reflection in part of the personalities at the table,” said Mr. Robertson, but what’s different here is that the players know each other quite well, many of whom would have been at the table for TPP.

“The rhythm depends on what it is you’re negotiating,” he added.

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Remembering Allan J MacEachen

Remembering Allan J. MacEachen: Parliament’s unmatched Celtic sphinx

Canny, shrewd, and wily, Allan J. MacEachen knew how to get things done.

Veteran Liberal cabinet minister Allan MacEachen, pictured centre, with then-prime minister Jean Chrétien and his chief of staff Jean Pelletier en route to the funeral of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 2000, died earlier this month. Photograph courtesy of Jean-Marc Carisse

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 12:00 AM

Justin Trudeau called him a “peerless” Parliamentarian. Allan J. MacEachen was certainly that. MacEachen venerated Parliament as an MP and then a Senator; he mastered its procedures with effect. He used his skills to help shepherd through a remarkable package of social reforms including medicare, a labour code for Canadians, and insurance for Canadians out of work.

He taught me and the many who worked with him over his 38 years in Parliament that politics is much more than a competitive sport, that ideas do matter, and that it is your duty to influence, shape, and make public policy in support of the common good.

Our job, he told us, was “to help those who need our help to put bread on their table.” His liberalism drew from the Moses Coady school of a hand-up, self-help, and hard work.

Justin Trudeau described the relationship between Allan MacEachen and his father, Pierre Trudeau, as a “match made in heaven.” MacEachen served Pierre Trudeau as House leader and Canada’s first deputy prime minister as well as minister for Manpower and Immigration, External Affairs, and Finance. Pierre Trudeau would later write in his memoirs that MacEachen was “the kind of man I respected, because he had no ulterior motives. He said what he thought, and the reasons he would give were always his real reasons.”

Elected from Cape Breton, N.S., in 1953, MacEachen served as a private member during the St. Laurent years. He chastised me for describing an MP as a “backbencher.” He thought it unfairly diminished the independent role of the private member.

He worked for then-opposition leader Lester Pearson after losing his seat (by 16 votes) in the 1958 election. MacEachen, Maurice Lamontagne, and Tom Kent were a powerful brain trust to Pearson. MacEachen always described himself as a “Pearson Liberal.” A photograph of a smiling young MacEachen riding with Pearson in a convertible with the top down during a campaign tour in the early ‘60s occupied a place of honour in MacEachen’s parliamentary offices.

MacEachen profoundly believed in the redemptive power of government and the moral duty of the state to look after the sick, the poor, and the elderly. These were themes of his campaign for the Liberal leadership in 1968.

In his chronicle of the period, Distemper of our Times, Peter Newman described MacEachen during the campaign as an “authentic voice of the Liberal left.” As the Laird of Lake Ainslie, he left as his legacy new roads, airports, and harbours; improvements to the steel and coal industry; a heavy water processing plant; and a national citizenship office.

MacEachen deserved the sobriquet the “Celtic sphinx.”

I served as his legislative assistant (1982-4), having won the assignment probably because I wore my clan’s tartan tie to the interview (MacEachen was very proud of Canada’s Scottish heritage).

Shortly before Question Period, I would enter his cavernous office, across from the House of Commons, to brief him while he finished the plate of cream cheese and fruit prepared by his indispensable assistant and gatekeeper Pearl Hunter. MacEachen would listen, nod, and then slowly walk over to the House. Three months had gone by and he had not said a word to me.

I had asked Sean Riley, who later become president of St. Francis Xavier University, if I should do anything. “Three months…it was at least that for me…just wait,” he replied.

Finally, one day when I had given him a particularly obtuse response on a Middle East issue, the Sphinx stirred.

The deep, rumbling baritone asked: “Would you really say that? Would you really say that in the House of Commons?” Pondering my loyalty to the foreign ministry (my department) against my service to its minister, I blurted “No minister.”

There was a pause. “What would you say?”

I burbled something. He nodded and went into the House. A variation on the question was asked but his answer bore no resemblance to what the department or I had offered. It was erudite and informed, earning him admiring laughter but leaving nothing for the opposition to chew on.

MacEachen also knew how to manage the mandarins. He would keep a piece of paper with two columns: what they wanted and what he wanted. Their list was always much longer and they would constantly push to get things done. He had some projects he wanted done–for the constituency and for Atlantic Canada–as well as policy initiatives around North/South relations or trade. He would take out the piece of paper and remind them the score was very much in their favour but his asks were still outstanding. It got results.

Canny, shrewd, and wily, Allan J. MacEachen knew how to get things done. Canada is a better place to live and work thanks to Allan J.

Colin Robertson is a former diplomat who worked as a departmental legislative assistant to Allan MacEachen from 1982 to 1984 while he was foreign affairs minister and deputy prime minister. Mr. Robertson is now vice-president and a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a senior adviser with Dentons, LLP.

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Full Court Press on USA

‘Full court press’ by ministers, Trudeau ahead of NAFTA negotiations

An active cabinet is key to Canada’s new approach to U.S. relations, say former diplomats, current Parliamentarians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe during a Q&A session with governors after his keynote address to the National Governors Association last week in Providence, R.I.Photograph courtesy of the PMO

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, July 19, 2017 12:00 AM

Canada’s “full court press” on U.S. relations is one coordinated from the top and taken up by MPs of all political stripes ahead of North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations expected to begin next month.

“Our strategy is quite simply to work at all levels. We are doing everything reasonably possible to expand our relationship with the United States at every level,” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I.), who is co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

He, like other Canadian officials, pushed back against reports that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) is going around Donald Trump’s White House, pointing to the bilateral meeting with vice-president Mike Pence that coincided with Mr. Trudeau’s speech to governors on July 14 in Rhode Island.

“We continue to work constructively with the Trump administration and with the United States Congress to advance mutual interests as well as our strong and prosperous partnership,” said Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), in an emailed statement.

Since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, there have been more than 175 visits and “300 individual contacts” with senior U.S. officials and Canadian cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, premiers and provincial and territorial ministers and Parliamentarians, according to data sent Monday by Ms. Freeland’s office.

Some 28 cabinet ministers and five parliamentary secretaries represent 95 of those interactions. Meetings have been with Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence, 17 U.S. cabinet members, 200 members of Congress, and more than 45 governors and lieutenant governors, with numbers expected to grow in the coming weeks, the office added. Washington represented the vast majority of meetings with 78, followed by New York with 18, and several spots in California made up eight visits.

 

U.S. NAFTA objectives released

Monday’s late-day announcement of negotiating objectives for the NAFTA by the United States Trade Representative started the next phase of the NAFTA talks, said Paul Frazer, a former high-level diplomat at Canada’s embassy in Washington.

“At this stage we can guess about the public role many in the Congress will choose to have. All-in-all I am confident that the Canadian advocacy work in the U.S. will need to be maintained and adjusted where necessary,” said Mr. Frazer, president of PD Frazer Associates who advises clients on cross-border issues.

“Including deficit reduction as a U.S. goal signals that the president and his rhetoric will unavoidably be prominent; Ottawa and Mexico City will have to manage two tracks: the negotiation itself and the impact of the president’s actions/statements over the course of the negotiations.”

Export Action Global principal Adam Taylor highlighted several areas that “provide a key line of sight into the Trump administration’s thinking,” including: its fixation on trade deficits; sensitivities in agricultural trade; enshrining ‘Buy American’ policies; and raising Canada’s de minimis threshold, a rule that slaps customs and duties on imported goods worth more than $20.

“While there are very few surprises, it is now clear that one person’s tweak is another’s transformation,” he said by email.

Canada will be ready for negotiations to “modernize NAFTA, while defending Canada’s national interest and standing up for our values,” said Ms. Freeland in a statement Monday.

“Canada is the top customer of the United States. Canada buys more goods from the U.S. than China, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined.”

That messaging reflected Mr. Trudeau’s address at the National Governors Association meeting Friday—a first for a Canadian leader.

 

Personal relationships key to U.S. strategy

Mr. Trudeau’s reception in Providence is one sign that Canada’s message—as America’s “biggest and best” customer—is being noticed, and that the nation is less of an afterthought, said an official in Ms. Freeland’s office who said they could only speak on background.

Standing ovations at the summit, and the number of people who recognized Canada’s prime minister, speak to the work done to build ties recently, the source said.

The month before, Canada sent Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, to the Western Governors’ Association meeting.

The official didn’t confirm whether specific ministers were handed regional assignments, as reported by Vice News in May, but said some are a natural fit given their industries, like Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains’ (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.) connections to Michigan and its established auto and aerospace industries.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said face-to-face interactions were the most effective form of free trade advocacy.

“It’s a contact sport,” said Mr. Robertson. “Personal relationships are everything.”

“There have been a whole series of efforts that [go] beyond traditionally how we approached the administration,” he said, adding there have been more minister-level meetings, such as those between Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) and his counterpart U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin in February and again in June, accompanied by Ms. Freeland.

It was a smart strategy by Ms. Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) to meet with U.S. officials before their respective policy speeches in February, he added. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) effort to build a relationship with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, the first of Trump’s cabinet to come north, was also crucial, he said.

“The homeland security side is really important, because that’s Trump’s base and so that relationship is very important,” he said, noting Mr. Kelly met with other key ministers.

An unusually large number of American officials are deciding they should make the trip north, Mr. Robertson noted. Recently Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he’d visit Canada this summer, leading a delegation of government and business representatives.

“I can’t think of a time when we’ve had that many in that short a period,” said Mr. Robertson.

Mr. Bains is one Canadian minister who has “undertaken significant outreach,” said spokesman Karl Sasseville—most notably in Michigan, Colorado, and California. And, while Mr. Trudeau was in Rhode Island, Mr. Bains met with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who has also met with Ms. Freeland to discuss issues like softwood and steel.

Mr. Bains has met with business leaders, governors, and other elected officials where he “[insisted] on the mutually-beneficial nature of the Canada-U.S. trade relationship,” said Mr. Sasseville.

The 10 other cabinet offices contacted deferred questions about their minister’s role to Global Affairs Canada’s Mr. Austen.

 

PMO briefing Parliamentarians

Ms. Freeland accompanied the prime minister to Providence, as did Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose government has fought against Buy American rhetoric, stressing the impact Canada has on various state economies, and warning that protectionist trade measures will harm more than help.

Global Affairs has helped to brief members of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group attending bilateral meetings with the latest issues and messages from the communications branch of the Prime Minister’s Office, said Mr. Easter,

The PMO has also launched an unprecedented U.S.-relations ‘war room,’ led by Brian Clow, Ms. Freeland’s former chief of staff when she was international trade minister.

Conservative Senator Bob Runciman was among the group in Rhode Island last week, and said he’s also seen more attention paid to Canada-U.S. relations.

“It’s simply more a sense of urgency and a higher priority, given some of the things president Trump has said and veiled threats, if you will, in respect to tearing [NAFTA] up. I think there’s a real full court press,” he said.

He said there’s a real “team feeling” to the meetings, and agreed it was a good idea for Mr. Trudeau to reach out to governors, noting several key cabinet secretaries came from those ranks.

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The Order of the Aztec Eagle

THE SENATE

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

 

Colin Robertson

Congratulations on Appointment to Order of the Aztec Eagle

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, it is always praise for Canada when a Canadian is awarded an international tribute.

At a special ceremony last week, His Excellency Agustin García-López, Mexican Ambassador to Canada, presented Colin Robertson with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honour the Government of Mexico can bestow on a foreigner. Maureen Boyd, Colin’s wife was also honoured.

My pride in witnessing this presentation was huge. My heartiest congratulations and thanks go to Colin and Maureen for their commitment and ongoing international work for Canada. This honour is especially timely, marking a particularly positive commitment between partners when the future of NAFTA is in question and the need to retain relationships so important.

Colin Robertson has long been heralded for his knowledge and insights into Canada’s place in the world. Personally, watching Colin’s career evolve over the years has been a treat. My husband gave him his first job in the Manitoba Archives when Colin was a University of Manitoba undergraduate. He worked with the then recent transfer of the Hudson’s Bay Archives from London, and joined us for many dinners and TV specials.

A Canadian diplomat for 30 years, Colin is now Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy; and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He sits on many advisory councils, including the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, and the North American Research Partnership. An Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy, assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate, he is also on the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council. You will have read his regular columns on foreign affairs in The Globe and Mail.

(1350)

His understanding of the importance of cultural diplomacy is deep, unwavering in support for arts and culture as a critical tool for Canada’s goals and profile abroad. That was evident when he was Cultural Attaché in New York, in the Canadian mission in Hong Kong, at the UN, Consul General in Los Angeles, and the first Head of the Advocacy and Legislative Secretariat at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

He has supported many international cultural exchanges involving Canadian creators, musicians, dancers, writers, exhibitions and performing arts groups. Canada-Mexico artistic relationships are long-standing. Mexico’s Frida Kahlo and our own Emily Carr have been featured in major international exhibitions. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet recently performed in Mexico and Canada’s National Gallery has a number of exhibitions in the final planning stages.

[Translation]

Honourable colleagues, I very much want to thank to our friend, Colin Robertson, this visionary diplomat who contributed so much to Canada, and congratulate him on this honourable distinction that he was awarded.

[English]

Colin Robertson, a consummate diplomat, is a champion for Canada of whom we should all be proud. He is a silent hero who has worked tirelessly over many decades to advance the interests of Canadians while respecting those of our international partners.

Garcia Lopez me hug

Former Mexican Ambassador Agustin Garcia Lopez Loaeza embraces former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson after presenting him with the Order of the Aztec Eagle award at the official Mexican residence in Ottawa on May 4. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

me Thai ambassador

Mr. Robertson, left, speaks with Thai Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi, right. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

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NAFTA Negotiations and Mexico

Bureaucrats ‘literally working around the clock’ to prep for NAFTA talks

‘We’re in a period of great uncertainty,’ one top bureaucrat told Senators last month. The foreign ministry is preparing for anything and everything as a trade renegotiation inches closer.

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump walk with each other at the White House on Feb. 13. Photograph courtesy of Donald Trump’s Twitter account

By PETER MAZEREEUW

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, March 8, 2017 12:00 AM

The federal government is working day and night to prepare itself as the new Trump administration in the United States eyes restructuring the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a senior official in Canada’s foreign ministry.

“If my colleague Martin is looking a little tired these days, it’s because he and his trade policy colleagues are literally working around the clock to consider all of [the] different scenarios,” David Morrison, Global Affairs Canada’s assistant deputy minister in charge of the Americas, said of Martin Moen, GAC’s director general for North America and Investment, at a Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee meeting on Feb. 16.

“We really don’t know at this point how the U.S. wishes to proceed,” Mr. Moen told Senators.

Mr. Morrison said he believed the U.S. government is just now starting to think about how to deliver on President Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate the NAFTA, or tear it up.

He responded to questions from the Senators about Mexico’s place in any renegotiations—Mr. Trump has lambasted the NAFTA as favouring Mexico over the U.S.—by saying Mexico is “most definitely not being left out of the conversation.” Mr. Moen noted that the existing three-way deal allows just two of the partners to address some trade issues, such as trucking or the sugar trade, without drawing in the third.

Some Canadian government officials speaking anonymously to Reuters in January and former ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney have suggested Canada distance itself from Mexico, perceived to be the true target of Mr. Trump’s dissatisfaction with the NAFTA, which came into force in 1994.

In response to chatter about whether Canada should go it alone with the U.S., Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.) underlined at a panel discussion hosted by the Canadian Council for the Americas on Feb. 21 in Toronto that “NAFTA is a three-country agreement,” and “Were there to be any new negotiations, those would be three-way negotiations.”

In any case, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who also spoke at the event, said he understood if Canada avoided some of Mexico’s one-on-one concerns with the U.S. Each country would have its own agenda, the CBC reported him saying.

Ms. Freeland’s foreign ministry is preparing for the possibility of bilateral agreements with the U.S. and Mexico if a three-party deal can’t be struck, Mr. Morrison told the Senate committee.

“We’re in a period of great uncertainty, and in a period of uncertainty it’s prudent to prepare for all eventualities, and that’s of course what we’re doing.”

The federal government’s position is that NAFTA has benefited all three countries, said Mr. Moen, adding, “when we talk with business associations in the United States, with specific companies, with local governments, they all agree.”

“Regardless of rhetoric, Canada and many in the United States understand that a secure, stable, and prosperous Mexico is indispensable to Canada’s own prosperity and security,” said Mr. Morrison, listing security, human and drug trafficking, health pandemics, and energy systems integration as issues “best addressed collectively.”

 

Ninety days-plus to go

Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that the NAFTA gives Mexico an advantage over his country, and has moved American jobs to Mexico.

He has been less critical of trade with Canada, calling it “a much less severe situation than what’s taken place on the southern border” during his press conference in Washington with Mr. Trudeau last month. Mr. Trump said the U.S. wanted to “tweak” its trading terms with Canada.

What that means is anyone’s guess. The U.S. and Canada have major or minor trade disputes centred around softwood lumber, dairy and chicken, drywall, wine, and proposals for country-of-origin labelling rules that would require products from north of the border to be tracked separately and labelled as foreign-made.

When Conservative MP Gerry Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster Sask.), his party’s trade critic, pressured the Liberal government in the House last month to make public what’s on the table for renegotiation in any NAFTA talks, Liberal MP Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.), the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, didn’t do so, but answered that his government would be ready for talks if and when the U.S. was ready to sit down.

That is still at least a few months away. Mr. Trump’s White House held an informal meeting with congressional leaders last month to discuss the NAFTA renegotiation, but has yet to start the clock on a 90-day window in which they will formally negotiate over how the U.S. should try to change the deal.

In Canada, Mr. Trudeau is leading a government-wide political charm offensive to match his foreign ministry’s efforts on the policy side. He restructured his cabinet, many think to better match it to the task of dealing with a Trump administration, and dispatched his top aides and cabinet ministers to the U.S. to build ties with the Trump team and the new Congress. Many of the Liberal-led House committees are also planning to travel to Washington to meet their counterparts in the next few months.

peter@hilltimes.com

@PJMazereeuw

Top Canadian industries exporting to the U.S. last year

Source: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada

Auto manufacturing—$60.6-billion

Oil and gas extraction—$60.3-billion

Petroleum refineries—$12.1-billion

Aerospace parts and manufacturing—$9.1-billion

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing—$8.5-billion

Sawmills and wood preservation—$8.2-billion

Aluminum production and processing—$7.6-billion

Resin, synthetic rubber manufacturing—$6.7-billion

Ferrous metal (non aluminum) smelting and refining—$5.9-billion

Other plastic product manufacturing—$5.3-billion

 

Mix with Mexico, or go it alone?

With U.S. President Donald Trump aiming his disappointment with NAFTA at Mexico rather than Canada, analysts and government officials are weighing in on whether Canada should push for a revised two-way or three-way deal.

 

Take a step back from the trilateral:

“We should not indulge in ridiculous posturing—like getting together with Mexico to defend our interests, when Canada has very different economic interests than Mexico. It is a fundamental error to conflate them.”

—Former ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney, Maclean’s, Jan. 30

 

“We love our Mexican friends. But our national interests come first and the friendship comes second.”

—An unnamed source quoted by Reuters on the sidelines of a cabinet retreat in Calgary, Jan. 24.

 

“Mexico is in a terrible, terrible position. We are not.”

—An unnamed Canadian involved on the trade file quoted by Reuters Jan. 24.

 

 

Don’t throw Mexico under the bus:

“Our relationship with Mexico is important. We should stand with the Mexican government and help them deal with the discriminatory trends that they are now seeing.”

—Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, speaking to reporters Jan. 30,

 

“Canada may not be in the crosshairs in the same fashion as Mexico but we have no immunity from Trumpian threats. Canada and Mexico need to hang together or, surely, we will hang separately.”

—Former diplomat Colin Robertson, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 16

 

“The Trump presidency should bring Mexico and Canada much closer together, not tear us apart. Whatever trade or investment measures the U.S. applies to our country may end up harming Canada as well and destroying the competitive advantages that the North American value chain has brought since NAFTA came into force 23 years ago.”

—Andrés Rozental, former deputy foreign minister of Mexico, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 27

 

“NAFTA is a three-country agreement. Were there to be any new negotiations, those would be three-way negotiations.”

—Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking at a Feb. 21 Toronto panel discussion

 

“Throwing friends and neighbours and allies under the bus is a position for a weak leader. This is not the Canadian tradition.”

—Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, CBC’s Power and Politics, Feb. 21

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Trump and Energy

Canada and Trump have common ground in energy

While there are obvious areas of disagreement with the Trump administration around climate change, we need to find areas where we can work together, writes Colin Robertson.

An oilsands operation in Alberta. President-elect Donald Trump has proposed energy and infrastructure policies that could benefit Canada’s energy producers. Photograph courtesy of the Cumulative Environmental Management Association

By COLIN ROBERTSON Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 The HILL TIMES

Energy will be a top issue in Canada-US relations in a Trump administration. We need to reach out now—to the Trump transition team, Congress and state governments—to find common ground, and identify the points of convergence.

On energy, Donald Trump promises in his ‘America First Energy Plan’ to rescind President Obama’s executive orders on climate, including the Climate Action Plan, and to encourage Trans Canada to renew the Keystone XL pipeline permit application.

Mr. Trump also promises to save the coal industry, lift moratoriums on energy development, revoke restrictions on new drilling technology, cancel the Paris Climate Agreement, and ensure any new regulation is “good for the American worker.”

While there are obvious areas of disagreement with the Trump administration around climate change, especially the promise to rescind the Paris Agreement, we need to find areas where we can work together.

Canada is currently the biggest foreign supplier of energy to the U.S. In 2015, we provided 10 per cent of the natural gas consumed in the U.S., 43 per cent of its crude oil imports, 30 per cent of the uranium used in its nuclear-fueled plants, and two per cent of U.S. electricity consumption. Canadian energy is safe, secure and reliable.

Canada’s energy industry is increasingly about innovation and the application of technology. Operational excellence and environmental performance are completely compatible, observed General Electric CEO Elyse Allan last week while accepting the Energy Council of Canada’s ‘Person of the Year’ Award. Allan, like most Canadian energy industry CEOs, believes that Canada can achieve energy superpower status through its leadership on innovation.

‘Clean’ coal may be a dream today, but with investment in research and development, it may become a reality, and we have an incentive to figure it out. Canada’s billions of tonnes of coal reserves represent potentially more energy than all of our oil, natural gas and oil sands resources.

The University of Alberta is home to the Canadian Centre for Clean Coal/Carbon and Mineral Processing Technologies, and collaborative research with a Trump Department of Energy would seem an obvious opportunity.

We should work with like-minded states as well. California is already a partner in a cap-and-trade system with B.C., Quebec, and Ontario, through the Western Climate Initiative.

Mr. Trump has promised, as one of his first legislative actions, a 10-year, trillion-dollar American Energy and Infrastructure Act that will leverage public-private partnerships and private investments. The American Society of Civil Engineers has identified U.S. $3.6 trillion worth of pressing projects in America, all of which promise considerable bang for our bucks in terms of jobs and improved competitiveness. The list of projects includes repairing bridges, airports, dams and levees, seaports and waterways, mass transit, and freight rail, as well as energy pipelines and the electrical grid, most of which we share with the U.S..

There are obvious opportunities in the Trump plan to complement Canadian government infrastructure programs, and so advance North American competitiveness.

Sustaining an integrated North American approach to clean energy, conservation, and climate mitigation will also serve our own economic objectives. Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay recently observed that Canadians are polarized about resource development, “when we should be focused on how cleanly we can produce it, how safely we can transport it, and how wisely we can consume it.”

Canadian leadership, federal, provincial and municipal, needs to recognize and inform Canadians, that when responsibly harvested, our energy resources, including oil and gas, are our national inheritance. Telling the Canadian story means using the tools of social media with facts and science-based evidence. Elements in the Canadian story-line would include:

· fossil fuels and big hydro projects will be part of our energy mix for decades to come;

· the role that the oil sands, pipelines and big hydro projects play in North American energy independence;

· the innovative work of Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance in reducing the oil industry’s land and carbon footprint and water usage—technology that has application globally;

· responsible energy development accords, developed through compromise and consensus (but consensus is not unanimity), that work for indigenous people and environmentalists, and contribute to jobs and prosperity; and

· Canada’s approach to carbon pricing (tax, levy, or cap-and-trade) and how this fits into our international climate change obligations.

There is a tendency in some quarters to assume the worst about a Trump administration, and weep about what might have been. This is a mistake. There will be differences, and we should be identifying the potential conflicts and figuring out how to manage them.

Where we disagree, we don’t have to be disagreeable. We also need to remember that, Olympic hockey finals aside, on almost every issue with the U.S. we can identify American partners. In advancing Canadian positions, our success rate rises proportionately with the ability to make them congruent with American positions.

Canadian leadership should pro-actively take the initiative with the Trump transition team, and identity the opportunities for cooperation on energy and infrastructure. If we get this right, mutual confidence will make it easier on the trade file. When the new Congress meets on January 3, 2017, and when the Trump administration takes office on January 20, we need to be ready for action.

 

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