Canada got pushed around by U.S. in trade talks, Trevor Har­g­reaves says.

Vancouver Sun - - EDITORIAL - Trevor Har­g­reaves is direc­tor of pro­ducer re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the B.C. Dairy As­so­ci­a­tion and pres­i­dent of the B.C. Farm Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

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.


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