Posts Tagged ‘NAFTA’

How’s the kitchen coming Chrystia?

Friday, September 8th, 2017

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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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Justin Trudeau doesn’t have the chops.

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

It is often amusing when Canadian writers try to compare Prime Minister Trudeau with American President Trump. They seem to think that Justin Trudeau has been understudying for his current role all his life, while Donald Trump is an accidental politician and is only now learning that the job requires some serious time and attention.

What most observers do not see is that Trudeau is the dilettante. He is not as adept as Trump would be if the American ever exercised some discipline.

Trudeau is the bugle boy without the chops. Trump is the bully boy, angered at his own clumsiness. And it hardly helps that Trump is almost twice Trudeau’s age.

They are both products of their families. Trump honoured his father by taking over the family development business and carrying on in his sire’s tradition. Only at his father’s funeral did we realize that Justin had political ambitions. And only when we first saw him working political gatherings did we see the future of those ambitions.

There is no suggestion that Justin is like his father. He is not. He is definitely his mother’s son. Trump’s father must have been a mean son-of-a-bitch because his son so easily earns that sobriquet.

The Trudeau-Trump relationship is another matter. It is unlikely that either of them likes the other. Trudeau is probably very wary of Trump and inclined to stay away from him. Trump would see the Canadian as a pretty boy and an easy mark. If he had a building to sell, he would offer Trudeau an option.

But Trump’s assumptions about Trudeau and his government are wrong when it comes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). His bullying tactics hardly fit negotiations such as are required in international trade agreements. This is not a contest to see who can negotiate the best deal for their country. It is to see if they can negotiate a deal that can be sold to the citizens of the countries involved. Trade negotiations have to be win-win. Trump does not understand that.

And what Trump hardly understands is that he cannot threaten to dump NAFTA, like he did again the other evening in Phoenix, and then expect his negotiating team to do their job properly.

Trump shows his lack of self-confidence with his repeated campaign-type rallies. He just keeps on making Trudeau look good by comparison.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Plan B: Tell Trump to Get Stuffed.

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Watching a Canadian cabinet minister being interviewed on the weekend was almost painful. Despite the goading of the interviewer, he refused to say exactly what he thought of the stance by American President Trump on North American trade. Like most Canadians, he would probably like to have the opportunity to tell the American President to get stuffed.

But we know he cannot do that. While it is obvious that Mr. Trump is mouthing off to hear himself sound important, it would be foolish to respond in kind. Countries deal with their international relations with diplomacy, the fact that Trump does not understand that not withstanding.

Nor is it the role of Canadian politicians to tell the American President the facts that he could get from his own trade officials. Trump’s knowledge of the facts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seem deliberately limited. It might even surprise him to learn that Canadians are frustrated with some aspects of the trade deal. That is why dispute resolution takes up more than a few pages in the agreement.

And it is why the recently imposed softwood lumber tariffs are a just a form of harassment. This is the fourth time they have been imposed and they are just as likely to be dismissed again this time as they were previously. Lately China has been recognizing the opportunity to buy Canadian lumber and that looks like a more reliable market.

In all of the complaints we have heard from Trump’s White House, the lack of facts or understanding of the issues are apparent. He is playing to his audience of poor ignorant Americans who think he is doing this for them. He is not.

His threatening to end NAFTA immediately is about as dumb as the blokes in the United Kingdom who thought they could cut themselves off from the European Union overnight. Taking down NAFTA would take a lot longer than even the six months required in the agreement. It would take several years to sort out the earlier Auto Pact that became a key part of NAFTA—without bankrupting Ford and General Motors.

In his first 100 days, Donald Trump has proved he is ignorant, boorish and unsuited to be president of the most powerful nation on earth. His threat to unilaterally scrap NAFTA could cause the beginnings of a world-wide recession. That would be in nobody’s best interest.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Donald Trump has a plan?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Heard any good conspiracy theories today? It is amazing how many pundits are writing about Trump’s real plans for world-wide dictatorship. They see Trump’s actions in the White House as part of a scheme. They think it is designed to keep outsiders confused.

But it should be obvious to everybody that Trump is the one who is confused. He is erratic, unprepared, unaware and badly advised. And if you can figure the conspiracy in that, good luck!

Just look at those decrees that he so grandiosely pens in the Oval Office. They are a sham. They are window dressing for his supporters to show that he is working for them. He could save time by sending the presidential decrees to the courts for vetting. Most make no sense. The ones that the departments try to implement such as the restrictions on Muslims coming to America are basically racist and cause nothing but problems.

And the promises he made to squash Obamacare were blocked in Congress by his own Republican Tea Party supporters. How he expects to get his budget passed might be the most serious problem he will ever face. He would need a new book on the art of the deal for that.

Judging from what we have seen so far, Trump’s idea of getting things done is to be the bully who shouts the loudest.

His version of foreign affairs is to trade insults with the crazies of North Korea and hold hands with the British Prime Minister. Now the poor lady is facing an election and that interaction with Trump could cost her job.

Justin Trudeau of Canada also had a friendly meeting with Trump and Canada has been dumped on ever since. Trump thinks it is Canada’s fault that the steroid-fed cows of Wisconsin are producing too much milk. Or maybe he thinks supply management is something his wife does when she is mad at him. Anyway, he does not like it and he talks about screwing around with or just dumping the North American Free Trade Agreement to get even.

At least the courts will settle his recent tax on soft wood lumber from Canada. That has become routine. The Americans impose a tax on Canadian lumber. It goes to dispute resolution and gets thrown out. They can hardly expect it to be fourth time lucky. In the meantime, the price of new homes in the U.S. has gone up. And the Canadian lumber barons are missing the peak buying season for home building in the U.S.

Does Trump really think he is the only person who can negotiate better deals. What he does not seem to realize is that the first thing to establish when negotiating between countries is good faith. That might be a novelty for him.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Is Justin the adult in the school yard?

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Has Prime Minister Trudeau been getting advice from psychologists on how to handle a bully? It is certainly to his credit that he is keeping his cool. Donald Trump continues to lob his ignorant taunts over the longest undefended border in the world and Canada’s prime minister just says, “We can discuss that.”

As angry as that loudmouth boor Trump makes most Canadians, it is important that our prime minister stay above the fray. As he says, Canadians will be pleased to discuss the problems with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). And to help, we have our own list of problems with the agreement ready for the negotiations.

When dealing with any irrational bully, you have find out what is behind the screaming and yelling. For you to scream and yell back at the irrational juvenile will do you no good.

For example, we really need to find out where this recent mention of the energy market came from. Many Canadians took exception to the American demand for full access to our energy reserves in NAFTA. They thought that was being too generous. And with what we now know about the pollution problems with tar sands oil production, there is growing pressure to leave it in the ground.

What is common knowledge on both sides of the border is that the Canadian milk producers have nothing to do with the disastrous over-production of milk in Wisconsin. When you consider that there are more steroid-fed cows in Wisconsin than there are cows in Canada, nobody but Trump would think to blame Canada. Wisconsin voted for Trump and helped put him in the White House. Now that he is there, he needs to play nice with the other world leaders—whether he likes them or not.

The one thing that we have understood from Trump’s tiresome tirades is the concern for soft-wood lumber on the west coast. That NAFTA argument has been in and out of the courts a number of times. How renegotiation would solve it is anyone’s guess. All we do know about this complaint is that the lumber kings of Oregon and Washington are going to be able to charge a lot more for their products when they do not have to compete with the lumber kings north of the border. Only the American home buyer will get screwed.

We do not always agree with Justin Trudeau but it is nice to see him handle this problem with Trump in an adult manner. He gets his handiwork stuck on the refrigerator for this one!

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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