Sorry, I’m still on about China: further to my recent comments, yesterday, and a few days ago, especially my suggestion that Canada should “engage with China in friendly (but not allied), and especially free(er) trading, relationships ~ China is not our enemy, it is, simply, a competitor in many markets, including the marketplace of ideas and values,” there is a report on CBC News that warns that a free(er) trading relationship between Canada and China could “give President Donald Trump ammunition to launch verbal attacks against Canada and NAFTA … [because former Conservative cabinet minister and current member of Prime Minister Trudeau’s NAFTA Council James Moore says] … “President Trump has made it very clear he has an antagonistic view of China,” … [and] … “Canada runs the risk of providing Donald Trump with an argument to say that Canada can’t be trusted, because we will have cheap Chinese goods that violate labour standards,” … [and, further, her says] … “The weaponry, rhetorically, that you would hand to Donald Trump, to say that Canada can’t be trusted, because you would have Chinese goods dumped into Canada and finding their way into the United States, further depredating the American manufacturing sector, I think would be incredibly toxic to the Canada-U.S. relationship.”“
James Moore is not, the article suggests, against free(er) trade (he would be be a pretty sorry excuse for a Conservative if he opposed free(er) trade); instead he appears to want Canada to protect NAFTA first. “Moore,” the CBC News article says, “is urging Ottawa to put any plans with Beijing on hold, until NAFTA is “put to bed” … [because] … “One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on trade with the United States … don’t jeopardize that by saying to the Americans that a free trade agreement with China is about to happen, and ruin our reputational equity with the administration. That is a huge risk that Canada should not take.”“
According to the article, “Canada’s foreign affairs minister shrugged off Moore’s suggestions … [because] …. “Trade diversification is extremely important to us,” Chrystia Freeland told reporters during a news conference in Toronto … [and] … “We’ve also always understood the value of trade diversification, and perhaps now we understand it more urgently than ever,” Freeland said, acknowledging the tensions at the NAFTA negotiating table.“
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that, despite my oft’ expressed distaste for everything about and everyone in the Trudeau regime, I am more inclined to Minister Freeland’s view than to former Minister Moore’s.
First: I don’t think President Trump needs any excuse to walk away from NAFTA. He doesn’t give a damn if it is a bad deal or a great deal for America; that’s totally irrelevant; he made a promise to his ignorant, “know nothing,” isolationist, white, male, embittered, fearful, working class (but often underemployed) base, and he
is inclined wants to keep it.
Second: the Chinese might want free(er) trade with us more than we want it with them ~ they want better access to our resource base and they want to launder, in a way, their money through our markets.
Third: way back in the 1970s, Mitchell Sharp was right when he said that Canada needed a Third Option ~ rather than the (then) status quo or even deeper economic integration with the USA ~ instead, just a 15 years later we signed the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, which led to NAFTA. That FTA was good for Canada and for America, but if President Trump is bound and determined to end it then Canada needs to diversify, quickly, and China is a HUGE market.
But, James Moore’s caution is not to be ignored … there is a danger that President Trump, a man whose negotiating style is to bully and intimidate, will see any improvement in Canada-China trade as an “attack” on America.
I still believe that the best way to pursue free(er) trade with China may be to try to open the RCEP trade deal to Canada … Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines Singapore, South Korea and several other nations are already members and Canada should want free(er) trade with all of them.
The point is that the strategic environment is changing, the big changes began around 2000 and then we got a “bump” in 2016 when it became obvious that America’s political divisions had excluded the responsible, moderate, middle ground option ~ the part of the global socio-economic-political spectrum that Canada needs to occupy ~ and that means that Canada needs to find a second anchor. That anchor cannot, I think, be China. But it might include traditional friends and allies like Australia and India and New Zealand and Singapore.
Canada is North American; our biggest, best, closest and most natural market is the USA. But, Canada has interests beyond North America and this may be an important time to emphasize them. President Trump is not going to favour multilateralism or even continentalism … he wants, only, America First. It’s time for us to put Canada First, even if that means taking some economic risks by, potentially, upsetting the boorish bully in the White House and opening all of our markets to stiffer competition. Canada’s vital interests are or at least include peace and prosperity. Engaging with China is one way of promoting both … making China an enemy is a guaranteed way of searching for just the opposite. Canada needs, always, to act in pursuit of its own interests.