Bruce MacKinnon, drawing in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, may be a bit hyperbolic, as editorial cartoonist usually are, but I think he is on target …
… my problem is not just with President Trump’s trade war ~ and it’s no secret that my problems with president Trump go far, Far, FAR beyond trade ~ it is that my reading of history shows me that all trade wars are destructive and, without putting too fine a point on it, stupid.
The expert opinion seems to be pretty nearly approaching unanimous: President Trump has jumped in, with both feet, where angels usually fear to tread. It is Americans who will be hurt most: American consumers who want, in many cases need, the less costly goods that China exports; and American farmers and producers ~ including producers of intellectual property ~ who risk losing their hard-won “share” of the massive and still growing Chinese market to e.g. Australia, Brazil and Canada. Of course, the Chinese will be hurt, too and when the world’s two largest economies decide to hurt one another we are all almost certain to suffer.
But there might be an “upside” for Canada … China still needs stuff and we produce a lot of what it needs ~ our prices may be a bit higher than what the Americans were charging but after tit-for-tat tariffs are applied by China we are quite likely to be competitive. International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne needs to be working now, fairly quietly, to organize another mission to China … one that will not end in embarrassment.
Let’s remember that John F Kennedy was wrong: the Chinese character for crisis (危机) does NOT mean opportunity, but that does not mean that one should not be ready to search for opportunities in any and every situation. Canada, far more than America, depends upon foreign trade ~ (American isolationists are, often, partially correct when they assert that America does not “need” the world; its internal market is large enough to sustain itself) ~ and, therefore we need to be more nimble than our good friends and neighbours to the South in finding and grabbing trade opportunities … including at their expense.
I’m going to repeat that we need to be cautious about China’s aims and ambitions. That being said, and despite what President Tump appears to think ~ if thinking is the right word for what happens between his ears ~ China is not and does not want to be our enemy … it is not our friend, either, but “not a friend” ≠ “enemy.” China is, in almost every respect a competitor for America, Brazil, Canada, Denmark and so on … it is a competitor in the marketplaces where we all buy and sell our goods and services and it is also a competitor in the marketplace of values and ideas.
Canada should reach out, again, to China but that should be coincidental with renewed outreach to India and the Philippines. Trade Minister Champagne should go to China with a team that is 100% trade focused, while the delegations to India and the Philippines should be led by Foreign Minister Freeland and should include Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance. The latter teams, in other words, should be seen to be:
- First and foremost, apologizing, primarily to India, for our prime minister’s unforgivable conduct during and after his last visits; and
- Looking for many ways to strengthen our ties with traditional friends and with the “sources” of much of our cherished diversity. Those ties can and should include new and renewed security and defence arrangements.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, single-handedly, managed to screw up our relations with almost all of Asia …
… but there are some responsible members of his cabinet and in the broadly defined public service who should be able to put things back on the right track.
President Trump may have set America on a “lose-lose” course against China but that does not mean that Canada needs to follow along, blindly. Trump’s mistakes may open doors to help us rectify Trudeau’s blunders.