TRUDEAU SHOWS LACK OF LEADERSHIP ON USMCA
Canada got pushed around by U.S. in trade talks, Trevor Hargreaves says.
It’s an ironic time of year for the new USMCA trade agreement to be announced for those of us in B.C.
As the season changes and we’re faced with the annual onslaught of rainy weather, we’re also witnessing the end of Trudeau’s “Sunny Ways.”
It was fun while it lasted, but the results of USMCA are a virtual guarantee that a haircut, well-tailored suit and attendance at every notable parade will only get him so far.
In Western Canada, Trudeau has been treading on decidedly shaky territory in recent months due to the ongoing Trans Mountain Pipeline narrative. Demonstrating an amazing capacity for personal compartmentalization and doublespeak, our prime minister touts progressive environmentalism while forwarding a blind devotion to oil infrastructural development.
The federal government announced this week that it is re-engaging consultations with the many First Nations bands associated with the project. Translation: Trudeau will likely have a hairline similar to his father by the time this project moves forward, if ever.
In B.C., our division on this issue is significant, and Trudeau pushed away voters on both sides.
Amid this fragile backdrop, North American free trade negotiations dragged on for more than a year with Trudeau all smiles and outwardly optimistic commentary. While this assists our global reputation of living in the land of diversity, Mounties and maple syrup-sweet foreign policy, it’s not particularly stately behaviour.
Let’s skip back to the Trudeau narrative leading up to the final negotiations of this deal. Frankly, he was impressive. He was a leader.
Dealing with an overbearing U.S. administration and a demanding Donald Trump, Trudeau showed backbone.
Economic pressures be damned — “We will not sign a deal that’s bad for Canada,” he repeatedly said.
Trudeau outwardly gave the impression that Canada would stand up to the U.S. no matter the short-term cost.
A trilateral agreement should be of firm financial benefit to all three countries, not a manipulative contract tying Canada to predatory U.S. export relationships. As a Canadian, I was proud of this narrative, as I believe in this country and don’t feel we should ever pander to a foreign government.
While participation in the global economy is important, standing strong and free should always be our outward approach to foreign relations.
Despite all the tough talk, behind the scenes the Trudeau administration clearly didn’t have the confidence to follow though with bold leadership. NAFTA 2.0 has been recast as a U.S.-centric deal that benefits the U.S. far more than Canada.
We’re neither as strong nor as free, and that is a critical governmental failure.
What did we get out of this hard-negotiated deal? We maintained Chapter 19, which is the non-partisan dispute mechanism. This is being hailed as a great victory. So to be clear, our big national win here is that we maintained the logical tri-lateral way to negotiate a trade dispute? We maintained something the previous incarnation of NAFTA already had. That is our big negotiated win?
Throughout the negotiations there was a lot of talk from Trudeau about protecting supply management and Canada’s dairy farmers, and rightfully so. Canada already imports five times more U.S. dairy products into Canada than it exports. Ten per cent of our market is open to foreign dairy imports, whereas the U.S. has two per cent of its dairy market open. It doesn’t take a PhD in global economics to understand U.S. demands for access were neither justified nor in the national interest. The end deal, however, completely bows down to King Trump.
They even renamed the deal with U.S. initials first. That’s neither alphabetical nor logical. It’s just narcissistic.
So why exactly are we limply following U.S. demands with all the national strength of a wet noodle? Within the Trudeau administration, it’s likely Trump’s ongoing threats to the automotive industry broke them. Auto is a major economic driver in Ontario and it’s clearly a very important industry. Should Trudeau have held out on U.S. dairy demands, things would have quickly become ugly with imposed tariffs targeted at crippling our auto sector. Has the U.S. negotiated in good faith? No, they’ve played us like schoolyard bullies, and we’ve reacted as spineless wimps who handed over our milk money.
A real leader in this circumstance would have said, “Bring it.” Canada should have continued to negotiate in good faith, and have the political wherewithal to endure hard times if need be to stick with our principles. That’s what national backbone really is. And we have failed. The bottom line? Trudeau was all talk. He sold out dairy. He bowed down to a foreign administration and he has now established Canada as a second-rate Western economy that is dictated to by a foreign leader.
Aside from the 3.6 per cent market access spin the feds have pushed in regards to their dairy concessions, the reality is they have agreed to restrict capacity for exports, and potentially impact the market by up to 18 per cent. It’s decimating for dairy farmers and it’s thrown the most stable dairy industry in the world into complete disarray. Trudeau is going to have a rather hard time locking down a sizable chunk of the agricultural vote in the next election.
Our prime minister’s father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, “Power only tires those who don’t exercise it.”
Clearly our prime minister is quite exhausted.
Canada should have continued to negotiate in good faith, and have the political wherewithal to endure hard times if need be.