Whither NAFTA?

There is a very informative article on the National Newswatch webpage by Peter Clark, who is president of Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates, (Mr Clark is described by National Newswatch as one of Canada’s leading international trade strategists) about the current NAFTA negotiations. The crux of the article, which is chock-a-block full of interesting bob_lighthizer_wilbur_ross_dr_sipaZDhlMDUzMWYyYiMvNHk4V1I4cXd6YV9NeU5NSk9SYWZGWGZHdm1BPS8xeDI3NjozOTk5eDIzMzgvODAweDQ1MC9maWx0ZXJzOmZvcm1hdChqcGVnKTpxdWFsaXR5KDgwKS9odHRwczovL3MzLmFtYXpvbmF3cy5jb20vcG9saWN5bWljLWltYWdlcytechnical details, is that President Donald Trump, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross  ~ the latter two acting as stalking horses for Trump’s every shifting positions ~ are simply blustering and bullying as they try to negotiate in bad faith, that they are, in short, liars who are trying to coerce and intimidate Canada and Mexico into signing onto a bad, even dishonest trade deal.

Mr Clark concludes his article by saying that ” [USTR] Lighthizer’s advertised demands are totally outrageous – a 21st century Richard Nixon type “mad man” approach. Perhaps the objective is to back off to still ridiculous positions, in order to appear more compromising and reasonable … [but] … Even the potential middle ground is unacceptable. Starting from absurdity is not a reasonable or realistic starting point … [but, again] … Canada cannot agree to capitulate no matter how hard Lighthizer pushes. Canada must not walk away from the negotiations. That would be playing into Trump’s agenda … [and] … Don’t expect to hear much about gender, trade and indigenous peoples, labour mobility or anything else of interest to Canada. This is the Age of the Double Standard. U.S. exports are good (Bigly good) and imports are bad.

I agree with all three points: the US’ current position (and a possible ” more reasonable” fallback) is beyond ridiculous; Canada must stay the course; and the Trudeau government’s “demands” are juvenile and were, most likely, designed to be sacrificial pawns when an agreement with the bullying, blundering, self destructive and irresponsible Trump regime proves impossible.

But not everyone else agrees. Robert McGarvey, who is chief strategist for Troy Media Digital Solutions Ltd., an economic historian and former managing director of Merlin Consulting, a London, U.K.-based consulting firm, said, about a month ago in an article in Business Vancouver that “Everyone who’s ever done business with Donald Trump knows his favourite tactic: don’t negotiate; intimidate. Well, he’s at it again, threatening to pull the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because Canada and Mexico are being “very difficult … [but, in the face of Trumpism] … a prudent negotiator would also begin thinking the unthinkable – calling Trump’s bluff and abandoning NAFTA entirely … [because] … Jettisoning NAFTA would not be the end of U.S.-Canada trade. We are each other’s No. 1 trading partner. The rules would change, of course, but cross-border trade would simply revert to international standards … [and] … It must be remembered that, before NAFTA, 80% of Canadian exports to the U.S. entered tariff-free, and those items that did face import duties (mostly clothing, textiles, footwear and some petrochemicals) had only to pay a tariff of 5% to 10% … [but] … In a perfect world, populated with reasonable people, NAFTA and other free trade deals would be win-win arrangements that respected the rights of individual nations to govern themselves. But the world is not populated with noble, thoughtful individuals; Donald Trump governs it … [and] … We Canadians have known for decades that we must build alternative trading partnerships first at home (naturally) and then in international markets. Abandoning NAFTA would force us to do it. The bottom line is we must stand up and defend our rights, or after 150 years as a nation we’ll simply have traded one colonial master for another.

It appears that many, many Americans agree with President Trump that free(er) trade is bad for America, but they also seem to favour free(er) trade with Canada or, at least, they believe that Canada is a fair trader. But, according to a Canadian Press report on Global News, “Stephen Harper says he believes Donald Trump is genuinely willing to pull the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement … [and] … The former Conservative leader, who’s known as an ardent free trader, says powerful anti-trade forces that predate Trump’s presidency are at play in American society and aren’t going away anytime soon.

Leaving NAFTA, but, in my opinion, only after President Trump has been seen, clearly, by the world and by Americans, to have forced the demise of the deal, would be something akin to a Hard Brexit” for the UK, but Canada is likely to survive well, IF the government is, right now, today, aggressively, promoting new trade deals with Australia, Britain, China and so on and so forth, and, simultaneously, is working very, very hard, even forcefully, to push Canadian resources through to Canadian tidewater ~ regardless of what some province and some First Nations say, but … oh damn! …

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… I forget, it is Justin Trudeau’s green, feminist, sunny ways government; in that case we are likely to suffer big time, because it (and he) doesn’t care one tiny whit about Canada, Team Trudeau cares only about re-election. The feminist, indigenous and and environmental proposals were only made by Canada because Canadian officials already understood that NAFTA is, very likely, doomed and the politicians decided to do some partisan political fence mending while they watched the free trade deal sink. They can always say they tried their best but, as always, it’s all Stephen Harper’s Donald Trump’s fault.

Seriously: Canada needs to be securing other trade deals … NOW! The prime minister and foreign minister need to distance themselves, personally, from what is shaping up to be a train wreck; like it or not, they are the face of Canada in the world and we do not want our national “brand” associated with failure ~ a junior minister or, perhaps, Andrew Leslie who is not even a minister but has been active on the file, should be the captain of the sinking ship. Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland should be on jets bound for Amman, Beijing, Canberra and so on down through Jerusalem, London and New Delhi to Wellington ~ everywhere except Washington ~ searching for new trade deals.

 

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