More fighter follies

Stephen Chase and Daniel Leblanc report, in the Globe and Mail, that “The U.S. military 1024px-lockheed_martin_f-35_lightning_ii_mock-up_04is threatening to pull the F-35 fighter jet out of the competition to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s, further disrupting the controversial acquisition program and increasing the tension between the two countries … [they say that] … The dispute, laid out for the first time in a Pentagon letter published Monday in a think-tank report, centres on Canada’s insistence on receiving guaranteed industrial benefits – mandatory investments in the Canadian economy – if it were to purchase F-35s.

David Pugliese, reporting on the same letter in the Ottawa Citizen, explains that “The U.S. argument is that because Canada is a partner in the F-35 program it cannot ask Lockheed Martin to meet specific industrial benefits for a Canadian competition if the F-35 is selected. Under the F-35 agreement, partner nations are prohibited from imposing requirements for industrial benefits as the work is determined on the best value basis. In other words, Canadian firms compete and if they are good enough they get work on the F-35 program. Over the last 12 years, Canadian firms have earned $1.3 billion U.S. for their work on building F-35 parts.” Mr Pugliese further suggests that “The U.S. ultimatum may have just given Trudeau a way out of his F-35 dilemma, particularly if the prime minister can say that it was it was the Americans themselves who decided not to enter the F-35 in the Canadian competition.

Messrs Chase and Leblanc say that this dispute “adds to a list of disagreements between the Trump administration and the Canadian government. The two countries are already fighting over steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by Washington, and the future of a renegotiated North American free-trade agreement remains up in the air … [plus, they say] … Canada is also caught in a power struggle between the United States and China and is suffering economic reprisals from Beijing after Canadian authorities arrested a senior executive of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei last December in response to a U.S. extradition request … [but, in a Reuters report published in the Globe and Mail, David Ljunggren says that ] … “Canada is leaning on the United States to help settle a dispute with China, which has started to block imports of vital Canadian commodities amid a dispute over a detained Huawei executive … [and] … In a sign of increasing frustration at what it sees as a lackluster U.S. response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is signalling it could withhold cooperation on major issues.” One wonders if threatening to withhold diplomatic support and imposing conditions on the F-35 that Canadian procurement officials (and therefore the minister and cabinet) must have known would be unacceptable to the Pentagon is the best way to secure President Trump’s support in our dispute with China … but, perhaps, Donald J Trump dislikes Justin Trudeau more than he dislikes Xi Jinping and China.

I reiterate that, just like Justin Trudeau, Harjit Sajjan and, indeed, General Jonathan Vance, I do not know what the best fighter is … that’s why governments write performance and engineering standards and run competitions that include cost and social benefits. I have argued, almost a year ago, that there is a political and diplomatic argument to buy anything but American IF the aim is to punish President Trump for being an ass, but, given the state of our relations with e.g. Australia, China, India, Japan and the Philippines, one must ask if giving the US the proverbial finger is a good strategy at this time.

I suspect the PMO might be happy to see the F-35 out of the picture … I’m not sure anyone else, including the men and women who will fly ~ possibly against China ~ whatever aircraft the government decides to procure, agree.

I see this as another case of Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland putting politics ahead of the public interest.

 

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