Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, In Edmonton nt Washington (Photo: David J. Climenhaga)

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.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

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.

Stephen Harper and Devin Dreeshen, both mentioned in this story (Photo: Facebook).

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.

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  1. I also do wonder if any deal Trump sign will endure long, he seems to have both a short attention span and positions that shift often. However, coming to and agreement is perhaps better than enduring Trumps wrath or ire. He seems to really have it in for NAFTA, possibly because some other President came up with it, so it can’t possibly be as good as any deal he would make.

    I suppose in some ways, Trump is not so different than many other politicians. Here in Canada, I recall years ago some politicians suggested we scrap the FTA (Free Trade Agreement), so after they were elected we ended up doing that by signing NAFTA. Repackage it, slap a new name on it and sell it as a great victory, whether it is or not. It is not a political strategy unique to Trump.

    Having said that, I do agree we need to be careful not to give away all the cows here. Fortunately for us, I think underneath Trumps resentments about Canada and its leadership – too nice, too charming, better looking and more well regarded than him, most people in the US including the important and powerful Congress do genuinely like Canada and do not see us as a threat economic or otherwise. I suppose they will indulge Trump somewhat and let him play his little games, but if he is too harsh on Canada and there ends up being no deal, I suspect they will blame Trump rather than us.

    There are also a lot of Americans who benefit from the current trade arrangement with Canada and I don’t think in the end they will let Trump upset their apple cart too much. As well, Congress has legislative power so Trump does not have free reign here. However, if he wants to call it TAFTA (Trump’s Americas Free Trade Agreement) instead of NAFTA, I suspect no one will care.

  2. David, as news reports of the Trans Mountain Pipeline ruling came down, I was struck by how quickly appeared Fed statements that this has no implications for NAFTA, which would seem to be an affirmation of the contrary. (It has no implications for our calculations of the distance to Mars, but there is no need to assert this.)

    Arguably, it should signal a time-out for a little rethink of our participation in the neoliberal globalization project (unlikely). But it may actually give them cover to fold on NAFTA, with the argument being we need more “certainty” (which is to say the NAFTA/CETA/TPP investor veto mechanism to quash such court rulings).

    If there is a lesson here about breaking election promises, it is that the NEB consultation process that the Libs campaigned on fixing, then bailed on, has come back to haunt them.

    Odd that the coverage extends to whales but that coverage of the content of the ruling itself makes no mention of catastrophic climate disruption, and not a word yet in the BC-based coverage about the fires. Whales, but not climate. The refusal to connect the dots and initiate an authentic inquiry into the long-term implications seems at times pure cussedness.

  3. Asking Canadian “media” to ask the tough questions about these so called conservatives support of Trump is about as likely as American “media” asking why China appears to have been copied on all Hillary’s emails. Maybe why Obama had a nasty habit of droning weddings and funerals? Did the inspectors even get into Syria to check for chemical weapons use? Or even how’s that search for weapons of mass destruction going? Expecting politicians to look out for the best interests of the people who elect them rather than their donors is about as likely as Kenney leading a pride parade.

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