Posts Tagged ‘NAFTA’

Donald Trump’s Win?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

We might as well let Donald Trump think he won. You hate to give a bully the victory but he would just go away and pout if we did not. What he really got was the right to rename the deal. That way, he can tell his claque that he got rid of NAFTA. It is now called the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA). It sounds like a branch of the United States Marine Corp, but what the heck—as long as it works for everybody involved.

It might be that Canada let the U.S. in on a bit of its milk market but the farmers can easily be compensated for that small encroachment. It leaves the fresh milk market to Canada’s farmers and that is the important part for consumers.

I would say it is a win for Justin Trudeau and his foreign affairs minister. They held the course throughout the negotiations. They did not let Trump’s irresponsible twits rattle them and they held the course to the end when the Americans had to agree to the deal or look terribly stupid.

The best part of the win was Canada sticking to its guns on bringing Mexican auto-worker wages into line. The $16 minimum wage for the Mexicans making autos and trucks is a huge jump and the impact it will have in Mexico will change that country a great deal. It will help drive up the costs of a holiday in Mexico for Americans and Canadians but that is fair too!

The other part of the deal that was vital to Canada was the continuation of the dispute settlement clause as it was in the original deal. The idea of submitting disputes to America’s highly politicized judicial system was a guarantee of constant harassment.

It also looks like Canada came out ahead on the automobile part of the deal. It looks like we have strengthened our position on auto parts and there are fewer concerns about the bleeding off of final assembly.

All in all, we can have the pleasure of looking south and giving Mr. Trump what Americans often refer to as the Canadian salute. Middle finger at the ready…go!

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Dragging down the dialogue.

Friday, September 28th, 2018

That Donald Trump is at it again. The diplomats laughed at him in the United Nations in New York the other day. Prime minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was walking by in the U.N. building the next day and did not want add to the American president’s discomfort and stopped to commiserate. Trump brushed him off.

It could have been left at that. It is just that Donald Trump never knows when it is best to shut up. In a no-holds-barred bear baiting with the news media the next day, where the media was the bear, Trump insulted the chief Canadian negotiator on the NAFTA file, lied about and maligned Canada’s prime minister and made it almost impossible for America’s chief negotiator to bring anything positive to the NAFTA table in future negotiations.

It begs the question as to whether there is any point to further discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States?

The point of this is that Mr. Trump knows that the Canadians are not going to tell him to ‘Get Stuffed.’ They, of course, know they have a right to tell him to but they are also being diplomatic and it is inappropriate for prime ministers and foreign ministers to tell the head of another nation to ‘Get Stuffed.’ No nation has gone to war over the head of the nation being told to ‘Get Stuffed,’ though there could always be a first time.

In all my years in politics and communications, this is the first time I have seriously felt that it is time to break with the diplomatic protocols and call a spade a spade.

There is no question but that Donald Trump is enjoying spewing all this garbage because he knows he can get away with it.

It is to Canada’s credit that our negotiators and prime minister have put up with this crap from Trump without responding in kind. Never let it be said that Canada walked away from NAFTA because of that disgusting Donald Trump.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The con of the carnival barker.

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

I remember as a child listening with awe to carnival barkers. I had learned young that the bearded lady and world’s tallest man were just hot air to impress the gullible. What impressed me even then was the glibness and ease with which the con man lied to the public. It is the likely reason I have for continuing to come back to writing about that bastard Donald Trump.

Listening to him and his sycophant the other day trying to bully Canada’s negotiators into signing on to their NAFTA terms, left me cold and angry. And I would hardly be the only Canadian to feel that way. We never know from day to day or week to week as Canada’s negotiators refuse to negotiate in public and Mr. Trump does not know when to stop tweeting.

While P.T. Barnum might or might not have said there is a sucker born every minute, Mr. Trump seems to have no problem finding lots of them to listen to his rants, his lies, and his crudity. This man-child and his tantrums might confound the diplomat confronted by the irrational but anyone who has any experience with a wayward child knows some ways to handle it.

First of all, somebody has to be the adult in the room. You can hardly send Trump for a time-out if you cannot take his smart phone away from him. He is certainly too big to spank—and he might like it. He needs to be told in plain language what will happen if he carries through with his foolish threats. He has to realize what will happen if he kills NAFTA.

Trump could leave a legacy as the guy who bankrupted General Motors. Ford would just be a footnote as another casualty in that scenario.

But the best guess is that Trump needs a win of some sort to show his supporters before the mid-term elections. He is obviously concerned that without something going his way, he could lose the House to the democrats—and maybe even the Senate. Without the republican support, Trump can do little and he would face the next two years in the White Hose as a lame duck.

The thing for our negotiators is to remember that it is Trump’s deadline that is closing in on him. Our people can take their time, be thorough, be fair and be firm. We cannot let the carnival barker con us.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Poker playing politicos.

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

It has been a while since playing poker at the local casino. The people who work the tables as a team, at that place, play a rough game. I stick to blackjack and craps at the casino and play poker monthly with a group of friends who have played together for years. The more interesting games when I was younger were the late-night games with politicos at party conferences.

This comes up because someone asked me the other day if I would want to play poker with Donald Trump. Expletive deleted, I said ‘No.’ The simple reason was that I would have no reason to not expect him to cheat. This is a man whose entire business career was a constantly cascading house of cards.

With Mr. Trump, you can always tell when he is lying. He opens his mouth. That is something of a cliché but he exemplifies the branding.

The same person then asked me if I would like to play poker with Justin Trudeau. I thought about that. I finally said ‘yes’ because I would certainly like to add some of the Trudeau wealth to my bank account.

But I would feel guilty. The Canadian prime minister is an easy read. I have been fascinated watching that man turn his public persona on and off. And as that gal from Timmins sings, “That don’t impress me much.”

And it makes Trudeau a ‘patsy’ for Trump. The American is holding up our prime minister to ridicule. He is holding Canada in contempt. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms to ‘Get stuffed.’

That is not a diplomatic term but its use would do him a favour. He has no understanding of diplomatic. “Get stuffed,” the jerk is likely to understand.

To be honest, we would be doing the dummy a favour. As the best friends America has ever had, Canada has the right to use plain American English. We have no need to pussy-foot with Trump. Why would you ever want to?

This game of his with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a deep insult to Canada and, win or lose, Canadians are not going to be forgiving. If Trudeau caves in on even one of Trump’s stupid demands, Trudeau will be out on his ass in next year’s elections.

Canada could be facing a few tough years without NAFTA, but in the long run, we might be better off without it. And no tin-pot dictator is going to hold our country up for ransom.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

Our ‘Pollyanna’ foreign minister.

Friday, May 11th, 2018

You have to be very gullible to believe the statements Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has been making after each of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) sessions. It seems lately that only Mexico is being obdurate over those proposed clauses that will harm that country’s positions. And yet the current deadline was set to accommodate Mexico’s upcoming presidential election.

But what deadline is Canada working towards? While Freeland is basking in the limelight, she also seems to be accomplishing very little.

It seems that her objective of keeping NAFTA alive is becoming riskier. Nothing is really happening. As we expected would happen all along, the question is hung on the vestiges of the old Canada-U.S. Auto Pact. Did emissaries from General Motors and Ford get to Trump and tell him that it would take as much as six years, rather than six months, to untangle their North American auto production?

And when President Trump is proving for all to see that he is unafraid of unilateral decisions that can lead to world wars, why should he worry about auto parts? He just keeps making impossible demands that nobody can satisfy. Few of us have ever followed a simple auto part from manufacture, through various assemblies and finally to a customer. It is a long journey across many borders and through many hands.

But Canada’s Pollyanna foreign minister keeps on mugging it for the cameras and talking about progress when what she really should be doing is talking to the American negotiators about is how to cancel the deal. These people are deluding themselves anyway, why not throw some cold water on them?

What she needs is a comic book presentation of what NO-NAFTA looks like for Mr. Trump and his claque. It will start with absolutely no automobile production in North America because nobody could afford cars that cost three times as much to build. And Americans could hardly count on imports when their government would have to apply huge import tariffs to protect the few American jobs that can be retained. And there would be fewer jobs in America anyway as other countries throw up tariff walls to preserve their industries.

It has been interesting watching Freeland play the Pollyanna approach but at some time we need to throw in a dose of reality. We just need to make sure that it is communicated in a simple form that Trump and his foolish followers can understand.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The Bully Pulpit of Donald Trump.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

President Theodore Roosevelt said, more than 100 years ago, that the White House is a bully pulpit. It means something very different to the bully in today’s White House. Roosevelt saw the bully pulpit as a position for good. Trump sees it as a position to abuse the less powerful. He is a bully in the full sense of the word.

Even Trump’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators, meeting in Mexico City in the past week were caught off guard by the tariffs Trump proposed on aluminum and steel. He was so proud of this that he twitted his plan to bully his country’s neighbours. He is going to bring them back to the table cowering to accept his conditions for an American version of NAFTA. (Otherwise known as ‘beggar your neighbours.’)

Trump’s negotiators have repeated told him that there is little reason for Canada and Mexico to want to “Make America Great Again” the Trump way. A trade agreement such as NAFTA can be of great benefit to the economies of the participating countries but it requires goodwill and fair dealing.

The bully in Trump tells him that it should be the most powerful nation that makes the rules. While neither Canada nor Mexico are the largest producers of steel, there has been a brisk three-way business in steel between the three countries. It has meant lower prices, more variety, adequate supplies and a fair market between the three countries. Trump is sure as hell, he is going to fix that. His tariffs will greatly increase the costs for American construction and products made with steel. He is trying to put thousands of Canadian steelworkers out of work in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie but will jeopardize the jobs of even more in Pittsburgh and Gary, Indiana.

Trump’ followers will likely pay the higher cost for their aluminum beer cans. Canada’ aluminum smelters are located in the middle of an area of the cheapest hydro power production in North America and will carry on regardless.

Trump is waiting for Canadians to retaliate to the repeated tariff challenges for soft-wood lumber, dairy products and now aluminum and steel. He wants a trade war. He needs Canadian retaliation to get approval in his country for his trade war. It would be the end of NAFTA. That is why Canada is carefully counting to ten each time the bully makes a move.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

The bravado of President Trump.

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Every time we have needed a warming thought in these blah days of winter, we have pictured President Trump running into a school to rescue children from a mentally ill person with a gun. It is similar to the bravado of a 12-year old suggesting that teachers be armed: ludicrous. There are times when that man would do himself good to shut up.

But Canada’s main concern should be the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in Mexico City. All reports are that this session will go nowhere and the recommendation is likely to be that the discussions recess until 2019. This will enable the Mexicans to get their presidential elections out of the way and the Americans their mid-term elections for congress.

The wild card in this game is President Trump. If he reacts to the delays, as any 12-year old would, he will give six months notice of the cancellation of NAFTA. He will think that will scare hell out of the Mexicans and bring those uppity Canadians back to the table.

But the problem is that his advisers tell him that he would lose American jobs as well as Canadian and Mexican jobs. So instead, he has been attacking specific industries. Trump has actually been complaining lately that those Canadians are a bunch of con artists who have been taking gullible Americans to the cleaners for years. This is why he continues attacking Canada on an industry by industry basis: first softwood lumber and dairy and now steel and aluminum. His attacks are not only driving up costs for Americans but are jeopardizing relations between the two countries.

What Trump does not seem to understand is that Canada has been America’s best customer for many years. His problem is that Canadians will have to rely on Americans to keep the NAFTA discussions going in that country. Canadian business has to launch major sales efforts in Europe, Asia and South America to see how much American trade we can replace. We will still have trade with the United States but new tariff barriers on both sides can be expected.

The Canadian government will also be forced to impose tariffs to try to balance increased deficits in trade with the U.S. That is a no-win game but necessary. It was what we tried to get rid of with NAFTA.

The good news is that in the long run, a new American president would bring the U.S. to its senses and a better NAFTA can be written. The only difference will be that Canada will never again want its trade so tightly linked and dominated by the United States.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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