Following on from yesterday’s comments about needing an indirect approach to trade negotiations, I noted a recent report in the Globe and Mail that talked about a “developing pattern” of “pretty aggressive” responses to US trade actions. The Globe‘s article deals in considerable detail with the proposal to buy the US Super Hornet fighter jets. “Canada’s growing willingness to fight back reached a new level this week,” the article says, “when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland threatened to jettison a multibillion-dollar deal to buy Super Hornet fighter jets as retaliation for a trade dispute involving Boeing, the manufacturer of the planes. The unprecedented move – tying a defence contract to a corporate dispute, and raising the spectre of a trade war – is certain to have engendered heated debate within the Canadian government, which is not accustomed to taking such tough measures.“
But not everyone thinks it’s a smart move. One trade lawyer says that “he’s not convinced it’s a wise approach, particularly with someone as unpredictable as Mr. Trump: “If you have a government job or you’re tenured faculty, threatening a trade war sounds like a good idea. But not if you’re working in the engine factory in Winnipeg or Montreal that supplies Boeing,” he is quoted as saying.
Still it’s an uncharacteristically “gutsy” move for Liberals and the Super Hornet is not the only “acceptable” alternative to the F-35. Two European aircraft, at least, should be available and, if purchased in sufficient numbers and with appropriate jobs in Winnipeg and Montreal and so on could do the (limited) jobs the Liberals seem to have decided are “must do”s. The French Rafale (first pic on the left) and the Swedish Gripen (second pic, on the right) both have “cheering sections” in Canada and I suspect that pushing the pause button on the Super Hornet and, openly, negotiating with Dassault and Saab would be a good, interim, tactic. Whether a real deal could be done to reequip the RCAF with new, European fighter jets is another matter … it’s more than just the relative costs and qualities: it would be a major departure from Canada’s long established defence procurement and defence industrial base policies. Not undoable, just fraught with difficulties …
I’m not a fan of the Super Hornet procurement ~ not because it’s a bad airplane (I’m not qualified to say what’s goor or bad about any of them), but rather because I believe that the whole notion of a “capability gap” is dishonest rubbish put out by the Liberals to help lay a political smoke screen behind which they can actually cut the defence budget and disarm Canada by stealth. Equally, I have no brief for the Gripen, Rafale or the American F-35 Lightning II.
But since I am convinced that buying the Super Hornet is doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason then maybe buying a European fighter jet would be doing the wrong thing (still) bur for the right reason: to win concessions in a trade deal.