WASHINGTON, D.C. – I see Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, is also in town tonight, so if I happen to see meet her strolling on the National Mall or enjoying a beer at Kramer’s Books, I’ll say hi for you-all.
I’ll also have some advice for her, worth what she paid for it, that she’s about as likely to take as my advice to her on Canada-Russia relations. To wit: Don’t be in too much of a lather to give away the dairy store just to get junior-partner status on the Mexico-Trumplandia trade deal.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, as our mutual Russian acquaintances say, the folks who run the United States Government are nowadays not really capable of making and keeping agreements anyway.
This means that, as in the case of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement before it, that whatever we agree to, and whatever we give away for the privilege, that deal will not turn out to be nearly as good as we thought it was when we signed on the dotted line.
To some degree, this has always been true in diplomacy, and the Americans are not the only ones who have backed out of international agreements as a result of domestic democratic pressures. Nor is it the first time they have done this – I give you Woodrow Wilson and League of Nations as another example.
Still, the American record for bending and twisting trade agreements to change their supposed rules has been pretty remarkable. And the fact the current Occupant of the White House lives in a post-truth environment – that is to say, actually, that he appears to be a pathological liar with extremely poor impulse control to boot – means that anything we sign pushed by his Administration must also be examined in the light of the Trump Family’s business practices.
They don’t pay their bills and they don’t keep their word. So the chances a revised and renamed NAFTA will mean much that’s good for Canada, regardless of what it says, are extremely slim – although we can be assured we will be stuck with any such deal’s worst aspects with any more conventional U.S. presidency that follows.
Anyway, as has been said here before, these are not really “trade deals,” as they are often described. Regulating trade is what the World Trade Organization and its rules are for. They are trade management deals – that is, corporate rights agreements – designed to ensure the people who benefit the most from globalization continue to do so. That isn’t going to change either, for all Mr. Trump has acted like he’d like to upset the applecart.
Second, I tell you, the Trump Presidency is not long for this world. Right now, the American Government and Trump Administration are not just operating on separate tracks, they are moving in different directions.
President Trump still has his supporters, of course, but talking to ordinary Americans on the Mall and in the museums – folks from all over – I can’t believe the prevailing mood in any region, even flyover country, is one of unquestioning support for Mr. Trump.
We Canadians have a reputation for saying sorry when we don’t really need to, but I can’t tell you how many Americans apologize for their president they instant they realize the person they’re speaking to is from another country. They’ll follow that up surprisingly often with, “we love Canada!”
In other words, remember where you heard it first, Mr. Trump is becoming an embarrassment. And sooner or later, embarrassing guests are likely to be asked to leave. You’ll see.
Speaking of good manners, it seem to me it’s really time for Alberta’s media to get over its aversion to seeming rude and start asking tough questions of Canadian politicians on the right about their past support for Mr. Trump. And perhaps their present support as well.
Devin Dreeshen, the United Conservative Party’s lamentable choice for trade critic in Edmonton, is not the only one by any means, but he is one who currently holds office and whose active support for Mr. Trump’s campaign is best documented.
Now that Mr. Trump has declared himself as, in effect, an enemy of Canadian working people – and Canadian farmers in particular, as it happens – does the young farmer-politician from Innisfail-Sylvan Lake regret his support for Mr. Trump? Would he do it again, all things being equal? And so on.
And come to that, what was Stephen Harper, the former Conservative prime minister and current conservative éminence grise, up to on his still-mysterious visit to the White House?
C’mon, people! Inquiring minds want to know! It’s not good enough to just let this go.