Archive for the ‘American Politics’ Category

Writing Off NAFTA.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on the operating table. While it appears that the gurus at Canada’s banks are giving poor odds, that seems to be what banks always do. They do appear to like spreading doom and gloom. Despite their predictions, nobody is willing to announce time of death at this stage.

If any party is about to walk out on the negotiations, it is the Mexicans. They have suffered the most insults and the most scurrilous pressure. They are also the country that cannot afford to lose NAFTA. It has become a critical factor in the country’s economy.

Mexico also has the growing concern that Canada might just be a fair-weather friend. There is just too much talk to be heard about Canada and the United States going back to the NAFTA that existed before Mexico was brought on board. And then Trump really would need that wall to keep angry Mexicans seeking redress from coming to Washington to visit him.

Mexico needs those automotive plants and the easy access to American markets for their farm products. Tourism in ‘olde’ Mexico does not cut it.

The next round of the negotiations takes place in Mexico starting this week. All the signals at this time are that the American negotiators are passed the negotiating stage. They are expected to get tough.

Canada’s quest for labor law equalization and environmental concerns have fallen on deaf ears. Neither the Americans nor Mexicans are interested. It seems nobody has any conditions to trade to make the deal.

The essential ingredients of any trade negotiation seem to be missing from this series of trade talks. Those ingredients are good will and an eagerness for success by all parties. With the good will down the tubes as signalled beforehand by Donald Trump, the resentment of the Mexicans and the obvious preparation for failure by the Canadians, we hardly want to be the odds maker in this situation.

But the key question is whether the American President can unilaterally cancel or change NAFTA without the concurrence of Congress? (And do not bet on help from the U.S. Supreme Court.) The Canadians have been working the system hard across the U.S. with governors, representatives and senators, seeking support for NAFTA. It takes six months to cancel NAFTA and Canada might just have to find out how many American legislators really are friends.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

A travesty of travellers.

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The dynamic duo of Trump and Trudeau are meeting in south-east Asia this weekend. Neither has the other on their agenda. And neither has a similar agenda. They have different needs and different objectives.

U.S. President Donald Trump has the shortest list to match his short memory. His top-of-mind concern is North Korea. He is looking for answers and he is seeking support. He has already pressed the critical players such as the Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, he will have all the side players including Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Trump will use his heavy-handed approach to try to get the lesser players in the Asia-Pacific area to strengthen their resolve to sanction North Korea. We will hope he gets more co-operation there than he seems to have gotten from China’s Xi Jinping. If we got one impression from the footage sent back from the meetings between the two leaders in China, we would say that Mr. Xi’s expression was not inscrutable: it bordered on boredom. If we have noted one thing about the Chinese leader over the years, it is that he does not suffer fools. Putting up with Trump is a lot to ask of a guy.

And since President Trump has already given APEC the finger in rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it is not on his agenda. That is despite the TPP having the possible geopolitical effect of drawing the signatories away from China’s influence and into the American sphere,

Nor is TPP seemingly on Prime Minister Trudeau’s agenda. He is stalling. Trudeau is trying to influence a more environmentally friendly and human rights based agreement. He will sign fast enough if and when Trump dumps the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but until then Trudeau can play to the bleachers.

Just where the East Asia Summit in the Philippines fits into everyone’s agenda is not clear. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will have a special request for President Trump to return of the Balangiga Bells to the Catholic church in the Philippines. And if you want to know what the heck that is about, you can look it up on the Internet. (And if you believe what you read, remember that history is written by the victors.)

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The President who would be King.

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

If U. S. President Donald Trump could just live up to his tweets, he would be more interesting—and maybe deadly. Since winning the American presidency, he has been creating a cottage industry among writers trying to understand him. He makes the understanding more difficult, because he himself has no idea how to handle his job.

The truth seems to be that Trump would rather be king.

His spare time role as an insomniac allows him to use his thumbs to type his royal proclamations. He twits about what he would like to do. When he can type “off with their head” he is happiest. His staff ignore him. When he tells us that he is going to war, the generals have a chuckle.

The twits Trump tweets are more for his followers than the nation. They please the uncouth and uninformed and stun the news media. And nobody seems to take them seriously.

Not that he has not noticed. He has been complaining lately about being ignored. He does not like it. He wants the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party and not waste its time on Russia and the help that country might have given his campaign. He seems to have a disconnect in his mind that his loyal friend Jeff Sessions is Attorney General and the FBI reports to him. We will probably see the “Off with his head” twit first because Trump does have the power to fire Sessions.

The Trump Presidency will be an unusual bump in the history of the United States of America. He moves his royal entourage from castle to castle up and down the U.S. East Coast at whim. He needs a bigger plane for his foreign forays. He wants to take his armies with him. Those foreigners would have to listen to him then.

It is getting a bit dicey for Trump when he interferes in the American judicial system. It is probably alright in the case of the sick man who ran people down in New York as he is unlikely to ever be released from whatever type of institution in which he needs to be incarcerated. It was the judge in an army deserter’s case who cited Trump’s interference for suggesting the soldier be shot. The judge let the guy off with a discharge from the army.

Maybe he might be less bellicose if everyone shouted, “Hail Donald!”?

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Hair harasses NAFTA hopefuls.

Monday, November 6th, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is still on life support. The end of his first year in office and President Donald Trump has not yet ended the more than US$ one trillion in trade between the three countries. Maybe he was waiting for some help from critics of the Canadian Prime Minister to help him make his case for canceling.

The ally, he must have been waiting for was The Hair: Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Not that we would recommend the Hair for successful trade negotiations. His help in these circumstances is to pour oil on an already tense situation. The Americans are making outrageous demands on our negotiators and Harper tells clients of his consulting firm that the Trudeau Liberals are too quick to reject some of the demands. It should be noted that Harper never completed a successful free trade agreement—he kept claiming the European Community Agreement was completed but it was only finalized after the Liberals took over in Ottawa.

The Hair actually complains that Canada is aligning itself too closely to Mexico to the consternation of the Americans. (Maybe he has never heard the old adage about divide and conquer.)

And true to his extremist right-wing principles, Harper claims that Canada is wrong to put labour rights on the table along with such subjects as gender equality and Indigenous rights and concerns for environmental protection. Obviously, he seems to consider these unimportant matters.

A commentator such as myself is expected to take pot shots at those negotiating NAFTA for us but it is considered very bad manners for a previous Prime Minister. And when you consider that Trudeau even hired former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to help out with the negotiations, it gives you an idea of the seriousness with which the situation is being handled.

Mind you, it is obvious that nobody thought of calling on Harper to help with the current negotiations. This is the guy who bickered with President Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline through the United States. As soon as Trump was in office, he put out an executive order telling TransCanada to build its Keystone pipeline. Mind you, it is likely that it will never be completed under today’s oil economics.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Does Donald Trump even like America?

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

If President Donald Trump takes any pride in the United States of America, he has a funny way of showing it. Did he run for the presidency as a joke or to get even? Maybe he was tired of being considered a joke? In his ignorance, Trump is giving the bird (as only a New Yorker can) to America’s two best customers and friends. You might think that is stupid. I might think it is stupid. What it can be is also a long-delayed reality for America’s friends.

Trump is trying to bully America’s two best customers over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The two countries combine to buy more than a third of America’s exports. If Trump thinks this is a bad deal, nobody has explained to him what it means in terms of the balance of payments. He is setting a phenomenal record as the first person in the world to gamble US$500 billion. And that is just the goods sold each year.

He insults the intelligence of Canadians. To Mexicans, he adds racial slurs. It will take a long time for Americans to repair the harm Trump is doing in race relations with many peoples.

Trump seems to be oblivious to the trade deal Canada has already arranged with the European Union, the ongoing relationship with the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth and the ease with which Canada can make deals in Asia.

And if Trump starts to play fast and loose with the automotive sector, he will find himself in more trouble with the automobile companies and their unions than he has ever expected. It would be very interesting to know what those companies intend to do if they are faced with drawing back all manufacturing to the U.S. Would Americans stand back and be quiet as Trump bankrupts General Motors?

But for Canadians, this is not only a wake-up call but a new-found freedom. Up-front, Canada can save a billion dollars in not twinning that bridge at Detroit. Niagara Falls, Ontario can have its own outlet malls for price cutting on European and Canadian goods that Americans cannot resist. The best price winter holidays for Canadians will be in the south of France and Spain and for a little more, there are the Greek Islands.

While Canada could take a hit as hard as 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product in the first year without NAFTA, there would be a long line of American manufacturers wanting to bring some of their manufacturing plants back to Canada to take advantage of relations with markets in Asia and Europe. Trump can have his introverted Buy America, Canadians can sell to the world.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Trump’s Triumph.

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

It could become a bigger parlor game than Monopoly. It seems appropriate to introduce it on Halloween. Our latest board game enables players to have fun ridiculing U.S. President Donald Trump. We are calling the new game Trump’s Triumph. It is both hilarious and horrifying—and how can you beat that? It is based on the most outrageous scenarios and how Trump would pull it off. Every time a player tops all others, he or she gets to be part of Trump’s Roman triumph down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

One of the more interesting scenarios is based on what happens after Trump cancels the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This assumes that he has been secretly negotiating with Russia to replace Canada and Mexico in the hearts and minds and wallets of Americans. After all it is only $500 billion in trade that he needs to replace. Just do not try to compute that $500 billion in Rubles—you will end up with a headache.

But it will be Trump’s Washington Triumph that will be the most fun. Imagine Trump and Putin sitting on the backs of matching open convertibles. (The armoured shields will only have to be raised as the convertibles pass the Canadian Embassy.)

It would also be fun to have the then current Canadian prime minister and Mexican president in chains walking behind Trump and Putin. They would be followed by the last Canadian-made Chevrolet and the last Mexican-made Toyota. They would be followed by a tow truck hauling the first Russian Lada made for the American market.

As you can see, it is a two-part game with the players coming up with outrageous actions by President Trump that he will carelessly inflict on American citizens. These actions can be done for his fun or profit. It little matters how much he will gain in wealth as his actions will likely destroy the value of the American dollar for a very long time.

The second part of the game is to see who has had enough to drink at the party to come up with the most outlandish but plausible aspects of a triumph for President Trump. The only stipulation is that the player has to find imaginative ways to keep Mr. Trump in office to allow the next player to have a turn.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Curating the consensus of the crowd.

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

It is most unlikely that Maude Barlow and the membership of the Council of Canadians see Canada’s future as being a pastoral society. It just appears by the collective’s recent policy consensus that this is what they want. What it might be telling us is that Maude’s days as curator for the Council could be numbered. It needs more of the strength and determination she brought to the movement back in the 1980s and 90s.

It is hardly that I disagree with any of the priorities selected by the membership. The problem is that they have selected principles over actions. Of the five top priorities of the membership there was only one pro-active item. National Pharmacare is long overdue and we should have pushed it through in the 1960s when our national politicians were still listening to us.

But the rest are platitudes. The care of our lakes and rivers is automatic and motherhood. You can get that from the Green Party, and nothing much else. Deals such as the Nestlé water grab are a matter of some serious talk with the politicians. Pipelines for bitumen from the tar sands are anathema to anyone who gives a damn about the environment.

But then you have to clear the collective’s head on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To fix NAFTA, you have to know what clauses and how you are going to fix them. You cannot just say you are going to protect people’s jobs. Why would you do that? Free trade is designed to get around that old, out-dated attitude. The way to handle that problem is to save the other guy’s workers. You do not tell him to get rid of child workers, you make him send them to school. You make sure nobody is being exploited. You have to be assured that all workers’ rights are safe-guarded. Then you have a level ground for your trade agreement.

Think about it: who is President Trump really protecting when he talks about an unfair NAFTA? Is he speaking of protecting the hourly-wage worker or the profits of his corporate cronies?

In a business career working with computer companies, I never saw computer automation replace a human worker that did not open up two better, more challenging jobs. The attitude should always be: if your job can be done better by a machine, it should be.

But you hardly need to worry about automation and trade deals in a pastoral society. Our Council of Canadians need to get out and tend their sheep.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Bad bodings for Brown.

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

A large piece of the Ontario provincial Conservative’s election campaign went bye-bye the other day. Brown and his buddies must have been sitting around the party headquarters war room contemplating what might have been. The directed verdict of a Sudbury, Ontario judge cut the campaign off at the knees. The campaign using Donald Trump’s “Corrupt Hillary” theme would not work.

The problem for Brown and buddies is that any claim of corruption had to have a believability factor. You not only needed people who dislike the premier anyway but you needed that “maybe” factor. Without that maybe factor, the voters would know you were blowing smoke.

Consider how unlikely it would have been for Trump to win that election in the United States if there was not a question mark in many voters’ minds that maybe Hillary Clinton really was corrupt. And then, it was the credibility given the claim, in the last few days of the election, by the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that threw the election. Finding out that the information was wrong after the election does not get your vote back.

Donald Trump had the money and the cunning and the lack of scruples and the luck to create the perfect storm. He also had a woman as an opponent who expected him to try to act like a politician and make mistakes. Trump was a political mistake from the get-go. His money made his campaign possible and his naiveté worked for him.

Brown’s problem is that his life is politics. He seems to have no problem doing what is mean, vicious and uncaring but his reflexes are directional and predictably political. He is unlikely to survive a debate with Kathleen Wynne. He does not operate on that plateau. It could be good television if it happens.

Brown’s buddies will have to find a stronger way to link Kathleen Wynne with corruption. We have seen in the test commercials that they are taking a reading on the idea of some mysterious “friends of Kathleen” being the benefactors of corruption but that is unlikely to catch on. The older gas plant kafuffle cannot do the job alone as the premier was never directly involved.

It would be nice to say that we are sorry that Patrick Brown is having these problems: But we are not.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

 

 

Bad business at Bombardier.

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

You sometimes wonder what kind of business people are running Bombardier. They got sucker punched by Boeing in the United States and they ran crying into the arms of Airbus. This was a desperation move and was too soon. Airbus smelled the fear and they ended up owning the Canadian company’s C Series aircraft business.

Bombardier is a company built on Canadian dreams. It grew with the country. It reflected our complexity. The original company had élan and nerve. It set out to serve its market. It developed the machines that could traverse our winter snows for business and pleasure. There is nothing more Canadian than hockey and the Ski-doo.

Bombardier, based in Montreal, has become am international corporation with more than 60,000 employees and revenues of over $16 billion. Today, it is in the business of building planes, trains and trams.

Mind you, it has hurt its business relationship with constant delays in delivering new street cars to Toronto. With Toronto being the financial capital of Canada, the city is a customer they should be eager to please.

There have also been continuing delays in meeting its schedules with the C Series regional jets. This is a market niche that Bombardier can dominate if it can just meet deadlines.

It also did not help that in answer to the Boeing complaint, the American government slapped a deal-blocking 300 per cent tariff on Bombardier’s sale of C Series planes to Delta Airlines. Despite Boeing having no competitive product for the regional carrier market, the Americans gave Canada the dirty end of the stick.

Boeing would not have wasted its time in this squabble if it not for the current review of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If the Trump administration can be belligerent bullies and unreasonable, why should Boeing not take part in the same game?

If Canada had proper representation in Washington, we would not be putting up with the crap being fed us by Trump. It is time Canadians stood on their hind legs and said enough is enough. Just because the United States is next door, does not make it the best trading partner. There has to be fair trade before there can be free trade.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Trump stands steadfast, Justin.

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau dropped in to the White House to see President Trump the other day. It is likely that two minutes after Trudeau left the Oval Office, Donald Trump had forgotten what they had said. It is not just that the man has a short attention span but he has absolutely no interest in what the Canadian wants. He is stuck in the tangles of his own agenda.

It is like his wall. All he wants to do is build a wall across the southern border of the United States to keep out the Mexicans who, he thinks, want to take the jobs of loyal Americans. And he hardly wants to worry about who is going to pay for the wall at this stage. He wants to build the wall and figure out how to get the Mexicans to pay for it later.

Or take Obamacare. The poor guy cannot even negotiate a deal to get rid of Obamacare. He just cannot understand why these elected politicos in Congress are so reluctant to deprive millions of Americans of their only chance for medical programs?

And, not being a politician, Trump has no understanding of how to weasel out of political promises you cannot keep. Justin Trudeau could tell him how—he is getting some practice at that himself lately.

Trump said on the platform throughout that awful campaign of 2016 that he was going to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The people who were supporting Trump were too ignorant to know that the trade deal benefitted America, lowered prices and created jobs. They saw it as a threat to jobs for Americans and moving them off-shore. So, Trump promised to Kill NAFTA for them and they roared their approval.

But Trump has no clear way to end NAFTA, Under the terms of the agreement, there is a six months clause to a cancellation but American law does not make it clear how this can be done. NAFTA was approved by Congress more than 25 years ago and Congress is not about to let Donald Trump usurp their authority. Whether Congress controls the agreement or the American President can unilaterally cancel it could end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justin Trudeau’s father once made some remarks in Washington about Canada-U.S. relations being similar to sleeping with an elephant. Donald Trump has turned out to be a nightmare.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me