Malcolm Mayes, drawing in the Edmonton Journal, may have the last word on Justin Trudeau’s attempts to woo China …
… it is titled (on National NewsWatch) as “China gives the finger to Justin Trudeau and progressive trade policies.”
While I fully support seeking better, which always means free(er) trade relations with China, because I am convinced that free(er) trade a peace go hand-in-hand, I know that many people, across the political spectrum, including many, many Conservatives, are pleased that China “gave Trudeau the finger” because they fear that China will not follow the rules to which it agrees … I’m sure they will break their agreements: so does America and Brazil, so do Chile and Djibouti and so does the European Union, but we trade with all of them and with almost all the others, too. Yes, China is big … so is America, so is Europe, but we trade with them Yes, China is “different” … so are Pakistan, so is Paraguay, but we trade with them, too. Yes, China is aggressive … so is Russia, and we trade with them.
I know I’m repeating myself, but, I think:
- In their early discussions with the White House Team Trudeau concluded, correctly, that President Trump is determined to get out of NAFTA. They decide that since NAFTA couldn’t be saved they would use its demise to do a whole lot of “virtue signalling” to Canadians;
- The Liberals are divided, internally, on the Trans Pacific Partnership. It is likely that the trade people (François-Philippe Champagne’s bureaucrats) were caught flat-footed by the PMO (Gerald Butts and Katie Telford) who, at nearly the last minute, caved into demands from some sectors and sent the PM into a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe demanding changes. Those changes were not hard to make but the combination of bad manners and dreadfully poor diplomacy may cost Canada dearly in Asia;
- The Trudeau regime either misread China, badly, or simply decided that since opinion in Canada is deeply divided on free(er) trade with China that doing the same “virtue signalling” was an acceptable course of action. Trade and China expert David Mulroney, writing in the Globe and Mail, says that the Trudeau regime has lost “that most valuable of negotiating skills: the ability to listen. Good negotiators,” he explains, “listen carefully, taking note of what the other side wants and, equally as important, doesn’t want. But these days, when the Prime Minister talks as he so often does about a “progressive trade policy agenda,” it can sound like a lecture. Smaller states,” he notes, “that need our largesse have to listen. China doesn’t.” No matter what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have told journalists in a fully off-the-record chat on the airplane on the way home, this was a very public slap-in-face, and that message of Canadian humiliation has been flashed around the world. But, maybe Justin Trudeau believes that losing a free(er) trade deal with China is worth a by-election win; and
- The only trade deal that has happened on Team Trudeau‘s watch was the CETA with the EU which was negotiated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
As I said earlier, that, in baseball terms. makes Justin Trudeau “oh for four” and suggests that he needs to be sent back to the minor leagues (the opposition back benches).
No mater what he told reporters in private, Malcom Mayes’ image is going to be understood by many Canadians and it’s not good for the PM.
Of course, this, most probably, will NOT be my last word on Prime Minister Trudeau and the bungled free(er) trade file. I agree with David Mulroney that the tough, skilled trade professionals who used to be at or near the centre of the Canadian public service are missing in action, so to say, sidelined, I suspect, by a government that demands adherence to its agenda rather to the public good.
It was sometimes, perhaps too often the case that a Conservative government came into office with a deep rooted mistrust of the civil service, which was seen, with some justification, to be overly and overtly partisan, but then managed to find and harness the skills and loyalty of the very best people, while some (but certainly not all) Liberal governments were sometimes wedded to more doctrinaire policies and put aside civil servants who didn’t want to follow orders. One of the key functions of our apolitical civil service is that, especially at the senior levels, it speaks truth to power. Thus, despite that ingrained mistrust, Brian Mulroney, very sensibly, listen to and then entrusted the Canada-US free trade negotiations to Simon Reisman, and, perhaps a little less surprising, Stephen Harper listen to and then entrusted the entire government to Kevin Lynch. Both were committed, career public servants, both were incredibly tough minded and independent … both earned the trust of Conservatives because they, very clearly, put Canada ahead of politics. My sense is that policy, today, is in that hands of less tough minded, less skilled but more “loyal” partisans. That, I believe, is mistake and I fear that it will cost Canada, dearly.