Posts Tagged ‘NAFTA’

The Walls of NAFTA.

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

There is more than one wall to consider when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators meet in Montreal this week. The wall that the negotiations is creating between Canada and the United States of America is just as serious as the wall of ignorance President Trump wants to build against Mexico. The difference is that Trump thinks he is manipulating Canada and all he is doing is creating a lasting ill will between countries long known for their friendship.

In a situation as serious as NAFTA, we started with denial. We launched into the negotiations with a Pollyanna perspective. We thought that the wannabe President in Washington would talk tough but negotiate. He seems to have no intention of that. He is threatening to take his ball and his bat home and the game is over.

The clauses we felt could be improved in the agreement where brought up. We thought it would show our willingness to negotiate. We were pointedly ignored. Instead, clauses were proposed by the Trump minions that gave America the clear edge and all the power. They included a ridiculous leverage on a high percentage of automobile assembly and an automatic five-year cancellation—unless stayed. This is not negotiation, this is demanding.

The feeling is that the U.S. negotiators might not make it through a winter week in Montreal. For that matter, the Mexicans would not really want the experience either. We could have a situation where the Americans might beat the Mexicans out the door. In as much as it is Canada’s meeting, it would be awkward for us to walk out first.

But the anger Canadians have been feeling is as cold as that Arctic Vortex we have felt this winter. When that bastard Trump is not belittling Canadians and our participation in NAFTA, he is patronizing us.

Trump has been told by now to stop pushing the Canadians. He might think he can jerk the Mexicans around but they obviously need NAFTA more than the Canadians. When Trudeau did not show up in that meeting in the Philippines recently to sign off on an Asia-Pacific pact, it was obvious that he wanted it held until the NAFTA meetings either folded or were clearer.

Trudeau’s problem is that he will have lost the respect of his own people if he caves in to Trump. He is working on Plan B.

-30-

Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Isn’t it supposed to get easier?

Friday, December 29th, 2017

With two years in office behind him, you would expect Justin Trudeau to be getting more adept at his job. He is not. This has been a year for criticisms, errors, lectures, let-downs and too many apologies. Were he with us, Justin’s father would not be pleased with his son’s performance. He would likely agree with us that the arrogance and elitism, his son has been exhibiting is hurting his performance.

If the fiasco with visiting the Aga Khan’s island last Christmas was limited to accepting a ride in the host’s helicopter, we could have laughed it off. It was Conflict Commissioner Mary Dawson who pointed out that Justin Trudeau had last seen the Ismaili Leader at his father’s funeral and their friendship had only become rekindled when the Aga Khan had a project in Canada that needed another $15 million in support that could be provided by the government. That had a bad smell.

What is also serious is Trudeau letting his finance minister take the opposition heat for his attempts at tax reform. If this is important enough to do, then you do it properly. Trudeau either had to fire Morneau or defend him. He did neither. He pushed him aside.

This writer has yet to forgive the prime minister for his support for pipelines that are proposed to transport diluted bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands exploitation. That is in direct conflict to all his claims to protecting the world environment. He cannot have it both ways.

Our prime minister might think he is invulnerable but he cannot say he is standing up for Canada around the world and then abstain from the U.N. vote condemning the U.S. president’s promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He just blew any chance of Canada taking its rightful seat on the United Nations Security Council in the next few years.

Trudeau’s excuse is probably that he did not want to annoy Donald Trump. Why not? That bastard does not respect people who will not stand up to him. We already know how Trump is trying to destroy any vestige of fair trade between our countries. Look what he did to Bombardier and our soft-wood lumber exports. You hardly use diplomatic language with a bully who does not use it himself.

To be fair to the prime minister, there are some programs of his government that have my approval. I’ll try to mention them sometime.

-30-

Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Beating off the NAFTA bogeymen.

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) might not make it to New Year’s. Who knows? Mr. Trump might just like to go out of this year with a clean slate. He has promised his ignorant and uncaring sycophants a pyrrhic victory and he might as well deliver the killing blow.

It looks like the only partner in the deal that understands the ramifications of killing NAFTA are the Canadians. The Mexicans are too angry at the racism represented by the wall. The people hurt the worst by the move will be the Americans. And the one thing we know for sure is that it will take more than six months to pull the deal apart. Like the Brits with Brexit, there are likely too many aspects of the North American trading situation that Mr. Trump does not understand.

You would like to think that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knew what he was doing the other week in China. That might be opportunity lost for now but it can come back. Trudeau seemed to forget one of the cardinal rules in doing business with China. If you want to do business with China, you sell the relationship first, the product sales have to follow.

But on the positive side, Canada has deals on the offing now with Europe, the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the main player Japan and with China. That adds up to far more than just a replacement for the cross-border trade with the United States.

What it will mean in the long run will be that Canada can cherry-pick what it wants to trade with all four of the major world trading blocks. If the Americans stay with the Trump approach, that country will be heading downhill to recession and turmoil. They just will not be pulling Canada down Trump’s rabbit hole with them.

What many of us observers sitting here in the bleachers of Canada will be looking forward to will be the ramifications for the North American auto industry. There seems to be a growing body of confidence in Canada that we can live better without NAFTA. While we were originally willing to talk modifying the trade situation, there is no way we will make the concessions that Trump’s unskilled negotiators are demanding. These are Trump’s NAFTA bogeymen.

-30-

Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

-30-

Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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

Chuckles’ Canned Conservatism.

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

In discussing the ebbing strength of the democracy of Canada’s Conservative parties yesterday, we never got to the major problem faced by the federal Conservatives. Their problem is one of leadership. If there ever was a good example of the mediocrity produced by preferential voting, the Conservative party faces that problem today in its leadership.

Andrew ‘Chuckles’ Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada should have come in a can—marked ‘Open in an emergency only.’ The former Speaker in the only majority Conservative Parliament under Stephen Harper, Scheer was the leadership candidate with the least to offer the party. He was simply the second, third or fourth choice of too many Conservative members.

A social conservative from Saskatchewan, Scheer has the perpetually surprised look of a deer caught in the headlights. You just know that he will stay there awaiting the impact.

But he got lucky lately. While the Trudeau Liberals are on a death watch for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Tories found their bonanza in Provence. And Bill Morneau’s French villa was only part of his problems. While the rest of the cabinet was distracted, Trudeau’s finance minister found himself engulfed in charges of conflict of interest and being rich. And the charge of being rich became incendiary.

It seems that neither Morneau nor the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner had the political smarts to realize she had hung the finance minister out as a target for the opposition parties. At this late stage the ethics commissioner has had to open an investigation into the possible conflict of interest between the minister’s business interests, that deal in pension programs, and his changes in tax positions of pension funds.

Few voters will have the understanding of what any investigation will find. Guilt or innocence will be irrelevant.

When ‘Chuckles’ and his pack in the House of Commons first started baying after the finance minister, we carefully explained that the finance minister was in the position of Caesar’s wife. It was not a question of guilt or innocence. It was the very inference of wrong-doing. Bill Morneau should have been asked for his resignation then.

And do you not bet that the Conservatives, with a target in their sights, are sorry now that they opened the can labelled ‘Scheer.’

-30-

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.)

-30-

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.

-30-

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.

-30-

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.

-30-

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.

-30-

Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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