Chris Hall, of CBC News, reports that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to meet as early as this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, a visit intended to underscore the deep economic and security ties between the two countries … But it also carries substantial political risk.” Meanwhile, Susan Delacourt, writing in iPolitics, confirms that a meeting is in the works, but not next week.
Mr Hall notes that Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump have talked on the phone three times already, but nothing can replace the impact of a face-to-face meeting. President Trump, as we have seen, is a bit of a bully and also a bit of bull in a china shop. It does not appear, from his appearances on the world stage to date, that Prime Minister Trudeau is of a similar nature.
The first risk, and one which I suspect weighs very heavily on Liberal minds, is that “of alienating progressive Canadians by meeting with Trump at all.” Many, many, I daresay most Canadians are, at the very least, suspicious of President Trump’s motives and intentions if not absolutely opposed to everything he might ever say or do. It may be to Prime Minister Trudeau’s political advantage if President Trump decides, as Ms Delacourt says, to abandon the tradition of US presidents making Canada their first foreign trip. Prime Minister Trudeau might not want to be seen being nice and polite to President Trump.
The second big risk, it seems to me, is that we might not actually understand what President Trump wants nor what he is prepared to do to get it.
I share the view of many analysts that Mexico, not Canada ~ which has a pretty much even trade balance with the USA ~ is the main target of President Trump’s anti-NAFTA views … but we must remember that he is an avowed and, I think, committed protectionist. That makes him a bloody fool, but a big, powerful and dangerous fool who can do serious economic harm to Canada without even working up a sweat.
Some Mexicans, Chris Hall reports, suspect that Canada will “abandon” Mexico and allow the tripartite NAFTA to die if we can keep the underlying Canada-US Free Trade Agreement that Brian Mulroney negotiated back in the 1980s. I suspect that many Canadian officials are of the view that our national, vital interests and Mexico’s are not coincidental and that “abandoning” Mexico might be good policy, given what they think President Trump’s agenda really might be.
On that agenda: what, for example, if President Trump wants deeper economic integration? What if he is after greater energy and/or water security ~ guaranteed access to Canadian oil and “free (one way) trade” in fresh water? What if he wants Canada to emulate Great Britain and spend 2% of GDP on defence? What if he wants greater integration or harmonization of Canada and US border security regimes? Any of these things might be on the table ~ and my bet would be that defence spending and border security coordination will be there.
A year plus ago American editorial cartoonist Rick McKee summed up the US Democrat’s world view as being focused on climate change when the real threat was Islamist terrorism. My guess is that President Trump sees that as Prime Minister Trudeau’s world view, also.
How far off his green, feminist, UN peacekeeping agenda is Prime Minister Trudeau willing to go to save Canada’s trading relationship with the USA? Or, perhaps the question ought to be phrased as: how far of his agenda will Prime Minister Trudeau be forced to go?
President Trump has already called “for a military plan to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS)” according to a report in Newsweek. Now, Prime Minister Trudeau can claim, rightfully, that Canada has had “boots on the ground” in the fight against Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS from the start, but his decision to pull the CF-18s may be harder to explain. The Independent says that “A former climate change adviser to Donald Trump has said the US President will pull America out of the landmark Paris agreement and an executive order on the issue could come within “days” … [and] … Myron Ebell, who took charge of Mr Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, said the President was determined to undo policies pushed by Barack Obama to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.” Prime Minister Trudeau’s main foreign and domestic policy focus, throughout 2016, has been climate change. If President Trump does, indeed, undo the Obama policies then Canada will be “out of synch” with the USA ~ something that most experts argue is dangerous for us.
It will be an interesting meeting …