How’s the kitchen coming Chrystia?

Though not sure if the analogy of NAFTA negotiations being like renovating a kitchen comes from Canada’s foreign minister, by now she would disown the quote anyway. After meetings in Washington and in Mexico City, it is obvious that the discussions of North America’s trade agreements are going nowhere. By the time the three amigo countries get together in Ottawa there is likely to be a fist fight.

It seems that nobody is in a position to save this screw-up. History is going to have to remember Donald Trump as a master of disaster. He has sent American negotiators on an impossible task. They really cannot win agreement from people by constantly abusing them. The Mexicans are certainly mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.

Canada is hardly going to allow our dairy farmers to be screwed the same way American dairy farmers are routinely bankrupted. And that fixed smirk on the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when people mention Trump is starting to look like a death mask. The Mexicans are already pissed by Trump’s racist insults and his stupid wall.

But the Mexicans are also becoming annoyed with Canada. While the U.S. delegates simply scoff at Freeland’s environmental protection and balanced labour suggestions, the Mexican’s saw it as an attack on their labour-cost advantage. This is a three-way, two against one negotiation, when both Canada and Mexico could use an ally. Instead, they are all talking and nobody is listening.

There is no rule that says we have to resolve these questions this year or even three years from now. It would certainly be nice to find a faster solution to the softwood lumber dispute and Canada might have to apply some tit-for-tat tariffs if Trump thinks he can just ignore the existing treaties.

But an angry American Congress might have something to say if Trump tries to end NAFTA. Congress is confident that only it has the authority to accept or reject country to country treaties when the U.S. is one of the parties.

The one thing the three countries might agree on is that NAFTA needs some adjustments after a quarter century. It just cannot be as one-sided as Mr. Trump thinks it should be.

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