Trudeau vis­its D.C. amid un­rest

For­eign af­fairs min­is­ter: May be most un­cer­tain in­ter­na­tional mo­ment since Sec­ond World War

Northumberland Today - - NATIONAL - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

WASH­ING­TON — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton at a jit­tery mo­ment in the U.S. cap­i­tal, to the sound of metaphor­i­cal alarm bells be­ing rung by Amer­i­can power­bro­kers about the pos­si­bil­ity of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump trig­ger­ing dif­fer­ent in­ter­na­tional crises.

The warn­ings are com­ing from cor­ners that would nor­mally be tight al­lies of a Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion — yet they are now ex­press­ing con­cern that er­ratic pres­i­den­tial be­hav­iour might cause chaos on trade and na­tional se­cu­rity.

The big­gest U.S. busi­ness group has launched a lobby ef­fort to save the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, wor­ry­ing that the pres­i­dent might be sab­o­tag­ing the rene­go­ti­a­tion.

Trump did noth­ing to dis­suade that im­pres­sion. He told Forbes magazine in a just-re­leased in­ter­view he hopes to in­voke NAFTA’s exit clause to ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter deal later: “I hap­pen to think that NAFTA will have to be ter­mi­nated if we’re go­ing to make it good. Oth­er­wise, I be­lieve you can’t ne­go­ti­ate a good deal.”

But this town is es­pe­cially fix­ated on an­other, more eye-pop­ping crit­i­cism of Trump.

The Repub­li­can who leads the Se­nate’s for­eign-af­fairs com­mit­tee, Bob Corker, has de­clared the pres­i­dent needs adult su­per­vi­sion, is in con­stant dan­ger of un­leash­ing chaos and could wind up caus­ing, “World War III.”

This is the thorn-filled thicket await­ing Trudeau.

Amid dis­putes over tar­iffs on lum­ber and Bom­bardier planes, and the NAFTA talks, Trudeau plans to dis­cuss sev­eral trade con­cerns with the pres­i­dent at the White House on Wed­nes­day and will also be meet­ing a more proNAFTA con­tin­gent of pow­er­ful U.S. law­mak­ers.

Canada’s for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter ad­mits her con­cern.

Chrys­tia Free­land was asked to com­ment on the spat with Corker as she par­tic­i­pated Tues­day in a women-in-busi­ness sum­mit or­ga­nized by For­tune magazine and al­though she de­clined to dis­cuss per­son­al­i­ties, she did share some wor­ries.

Free­land said she’s wor­ried be­cause old, suc­cess­ful in­sti­tu­tions are start­ing to break down. She cred­ited post-Sec­ond World War trade or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as the UN, the World Bank and the IMF with safe­guard­ing more than 70 years of pros­per­ity.

“There are a lot of things that are con­cern­ing in the world right now,” Free­land said when asked about Corker’s com­ments. “I think this is prob­a­bly the most un­cer­tain mo­ment in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions since the end of the Sec­ond World War.

“(The post­war or­der) has re­ally worked. With time it has em­braced more and more peo­ple into a peace­ful, pros­per­ous world. It’s been great. And that or­der is start­ing to frac­ture. As a re­sult, we’re see­ing ten­sions in lots of dif­fer­ent places.”

She men­tioned North Korea as one ex­am­ple.

The most no­table thing about Corker’s com­ments, per­haps, is that they were made in pub­lic. In do­ing so, he yanked back the cur­tain on a con­ver­sa­tion that has been ram­pant in Wash­ing­ton for months.

In pri­vate and in off-the-record chats, nu­mer­ous Repub­li­cans crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent and fret about in­sta­bil­ity.

One well-placed mil­i­tary of­fi­cer aware of high-level dis­cus­sions con­firmed Corker’s ac­count.

He de­scribed in an off-the-record chat with The Cana­dian Press how se­nior brass work con­stantly to block the worst ideas from the White House for fear of es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions and pro­vok­ing war.

He cited three in­dis­pens­able play­ers and of­fered a dark prog­no­sis of what should hap­pen if chief of staff John Kelly, Defence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, or na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster left gov­ern­ment: “Start pan­ick­ing.” Then there’s the trade front. The U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, whose po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions in the last elec­tion cy­cle went 96 per cent to Repub­li­cans and four per cent to Democrats, ac­cord­ing to the trans­parency site OpenSe­, is ex­press­ing wor­ries about NAFTA as the latest round of talks is set to start Wed­nes­day..

On Tues­day, cham­ber pres­i­dent Tom Dono­hue fret­ted that the ne­go­ti­a­tions have been de­signed to fail.

He sin­gled out his own coun­try’s pro­pos­als — on auto parts, on dis­pute res­o­lu­tion, on Buy Amer­i­can pro­cure­ment rules and on a sun­set clause that could re­sult in NAFTA’s ter­mi­na­tion after five years.

“There are sev­eral poi­son pill pro­pos­als still on the ta­ble that could doom the en­tire deal ... All of these pro­pos­als are un­nec­es­sary and un­ac­cept­able,” Dono­hue said, ac­cord­ing to a pre­pared text.

“Ladies and gen­tle­men, we’ve reached a crit­i­cal mo­ment. And the cham­ber has had no choice but ring the alarm bells.”

He said the busi­ness lobby will ramp up its ef­forts on Capi­tol Hill. It will also send the White House a letter signed by more than 300 state and lo­cal cham­bers ex­press­ing sup­port for NAFTA.

Free­land is Canada’s lead min­is­ter on the NAFTA file and she has ex­pressed con­cern be­fore about the po­ten­tial for in­sta­bil­ity.

At the last round of talks, she gave her col­leagues from the U.S. and Mex­ico three books, in­clud­ing Mar­garet MacMil­lan’s The War

That Ended Peace, about how, at the birth of the 20th cen­tury, a back­lash against glob­al­iza­tion, fear of ter­ror­ism, a fast-chang­ing econ­omy and a rise in na­tion­al­ism led to the First World War.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and So­phie Gre­goire Trudeau de­part Ot­tawa on Tues­day, en route to Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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