A part­ing of the ways

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

It’s a good thing that hu­mans aren’t de­signed to be able to vis­cer­ally re­mem­ber pain. Per­haps if we were, we’d all be only chil­dren — be­cause, who would do child­birth again? But that in­abil­ity to re­mem­ber pain has its own pit­falls — pit­falls like U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. That’s be­cause the in­abil­ity to re­mem­ber pain means we of­ten have a far rosier view of the past than we did when we were ac­tu­ally liv­ing right there in it — and of­ten, peo­ple wind up long­ing for “good old days” they didn’t re­ally have.

Trump has shown a pen­chant for try­ing to turn the clock back­wards; “mak­ing Amer­ica great again” of­ten seems to in­volve un­do­ing things, rather than mov­ing for­ward. Un­do­ing gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion, un­do­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, un­do­ing trade pacts: some­how, there’s a view that a re­turn to a smaller-gov­ern­ment iso­la­tion­ist na­tion will im­prove the lot of Amer­i­cans.

Fewer mar­kets and less com­pe­ti­tion might well in­crease the for­tunes of Amer­i­can-only man­u­fac­tur­ers at the same time, since the main driver of any man­u­fac­turer’s costs is labour, the more Amer­i­cans em­ployed, the higher prices they will have to pay, un­less they’re will­ing to work for the same wages paid in other coun­tries.

Last week’s G20 meet­ing shows one thing pretty clearly: that the United States, at least un­der Trump, is more than com­fort­able to be an out­lier.

In­stead of see­ing wa­tered-down state­ments from the meet­ing, we’re see­ing one po­si­tion from 19 of the 20, with the Amer­i­cans es­sen­tially on their own page.

“We take note of the de­ci­sion of the United States of Amer­ica to with­draw from the Paris agree­ment,” the fi­nal com­mu­niqué said, adding: “The lead­ers of the other G20 mem­bers state that the Paris agree­ment is ir­re­versible.”

Where does that leave us?

We’re in a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult po­si­tion in this coun­try. So much of our trade is with the U.S., and so much of our bor­der, as well. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has been try­ing to walk a fine line on the is­sue, stay­ing friendly with Trump to the ex­tent that he can, while at the same time sid­ing on ma­jor is­sues with more for­ward-look­ing na­tions.

But that can only work for a while — es­pe­cially with Trump’s in­ten­tion to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

When your best friend takes their ball and goes home in a huff, you can’t just sit on the field and hope that they will come back.

You’ve got to start mak­ing other friends. On is­sues like NAFTA, we should seek the best ar­range­ment we can get — that, at least, is ob­vi­ous. But we should also clearly turn to the rest of the world — a world that does not say it plans to hold us to ran­som for its own ben­e­fit.

It may just be that, for Canada, the era of best friend­ship with the United States might be reach­ing an end.

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