When you can’t trust your part­ner

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION - Russell Wanger­sky

Pe­ter Beyer is not a name that prob­a­bly leapt out at you from all the cov­er­age of the re­cent G7 sum­mit in Charlevoix, Que.

No, in­stead of Beyer, you prob­a­bly think of the sum­mit in terms of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s air­borne Twit­ter-spasm, where he waited un­til he was safely on his plane be­fore at­tack­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau as “weak” and “dis­hon­est” and threat­en­ing new tar­iffs in a bur­geon­ing trade war be­tween the U.S., Canada and the Euro­pean Union.

But Beyer, who is the German gov­ern­ment’s co-or­di­na­tor of Transat­lantic Co-op­er­a­tion, had prob­a­bly the best take on what the sum­mit de­ba­cle ac­tu­ally demon­strates.

Beyer is a former German politi­cian, elected to the Bun­destag in 2009, where he served on the Com­mit­tee on Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs. Ap­pointed to his new po­si­tion in April, it took mere days be­fore he was de­scrib­ing deal­ing with evolv­ing and erod­ing Amer­i­can pol­icy po­si­tions as “very de­mand­ing.”

But what he said af­ter the G7 sum­mit, buried far down in a New York Times story on the fuss, is prob­a­bly the best take­home mes­sage about a U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion that seems to set its pol­icy goals based solely on the per­sonal feel­ings of its thin­skinned Com­man­der in Chief.

“It started out as a good sum­mit be­cause we were ac­tu­ally talk­ing to each other, in­stead of past each other,” Beyer said.

But that changed quickly: “It looks like the U.S. is no longer a re­li­able part­ner in in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, and that’s bad.”

That should be the en­tire take­away from the event - thought­fully, or even hon­estly. That may play well in the cheap seats of Trump’s per­sonal fan­dom, but for peo­ple in this coun­try, it means a crit­i­cal re­think­ing about who we want to do busi­ness with, at least in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

For the rest of the world, and es­pe­cially for Canada, that can’t hap­pen fast enough. The U.S. is a huge mar­ket, but the sim­ple fact is that in­vest­ment and trade de­pends on at least a mod­icum of con­stancy.

If you’re go­ing to ex­pand to sell your prod­uct into the United States, you have to be able to trust that the ground rules won’t change be­cause a pres­i­dent gets his nose out of joint about how he feels he was treated. If you want to buy prod­uct from the States to sell here, you have some com­fort that the lat­est snit won’t bring re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs that price your prod­uct out of the mar­ket.

Trump’s build­ing a wall, all right; in­stead of bricks and mor­tar on his south­ern bor­der, it’s a tar­iff wall against every­one else.

You can claim — as some ap­par­ently still do — that Trump is play­ing some kind of su­percere­bral 3-D chess game. Or you can take the po­si­tion of the former White House of­fi­cial, who said fol­low­ing a Trump de­ci­sion to par­don Di­nesh D’souza (who pleaded guilty to cam­paign fi­nance fraud) that it’s not “the sort of three-di­men­sional chess peo­ple as­cribe to de­ci­sions like this. More of­ten than not he’s just eat­ing the pieces.”

There’s plenty more than can be said. You can be as of­fen­sive as Robert De Niro, an­nounc­ing

“F--k Trump” on stage at the Tony awards, or as mild as Canadian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land, sug­gest­ing that Trumpian per­sonal attacks aren’t use­ful or ap­pro­pri­ate.

Whether you like Trump, hate him, or couldn’t care less about him, one thing’s cer­tain.

Pe­ter Beyer is right.

As long as Trump is in of­fice, Amer­ica is not a re­li­able part­ner.

He may claim to know the art of the deal.

But if all deals are one out­raged pres­i­den­tial tweet away from mean­ing­less, why bother?

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