Free­land speech swings back at pro­tec­tion­ism’s clown prince

Chrys­tia de­liv­ers ace


When Chrys­tia Free­land was first tapped by the prime min­is­ter to be Canada’s min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, crit­ics could be ex­cused for think­ing she was in over her head — which is no re­flec­tion on her diminu­tive stature.

While her pre­vi­ous ca­reer was that of a jour­nal­ist, she was more a mem­ber of the aca­demic crowd and not the ink-stained wretches who comb cur­rent events and pol­icy ini­tia­tives in search of dirt.

Her last book, pub­lished in 2012, was ti­tled, Plu­to­crats: The Rise of the New Global Su­per-rich and the Fall of Ev­ery­one Else.

It had many of us run­ning to our Funk & Wag­nalls to look up plu­to­crat.

This is a bit of an ex­ag­ger­a­tion, of course, but suf­fice Free­land’s evis­cer­a­tion of the plu­toc­racy was not the light­est of read­ing.

But neg­a­tive first im­pres­sions of Free­land can now be al­lo­cated to the cir­cu­lar file known as the waste­bas­ket.

If Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has a le­git­i­mate star in his cabi­net it is Chrys­tia Free­land, who makes her pre­de­ces­sor Stephane Dion look ex­actly what he was in that port­fo­lio — weak, in­ef­fec­tive and al­most laugh­able.

The other night, when she re­ceived the Diplo­mat of the Year Award from For­eign Pol­icy Mag­a­zine, Free­land gave a speech to a crowd of high-level in­ter­na­tional pol­icy wonks in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., that never once men­tioned the bane of her ex­is­tence in try­ing to en­sure NAFTA is not swept away by the clown prince of Amer­i­can pro­tec­tion­ism.

She never men­tioned Don­ald Trump by name, but he was in her sights from the mo­ment she loaded her speech with a re­buke of Trump’s pop­ulist tar­iffs on Canadian steel and alu­minum un­der the bo­gusly con­trived guise that it was an Amer­i­can se­cu­rity is­sue.

And nor did she men­tion the two Trump sur­ro­gates and eco­nomic ad­vis­ers, Peter Navarro and Larry Kud­low, who ac­cused Trudeau of “be­tray­ing” their pres­i­dent, and there­fore hav­ing a “spe­cial place in hell.” She wisely ig­nored th­ese at­tack dogs, and let them sleep, with Kud­low now re­cov­er­ing from a mild, post-rant heart at­tack. “Facts mat­ter. Truth mat­ters. Com­pe­tence and hon­esty among elected lead­ers and our pub­lic ser­vice mat­ter,” Free­land told the Wash­ing­ton gather­ing, cit­ing that Trump’s tar­iffs are il­le­gal un­der both NAFTA and WTO rules.

She then called Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions that Canadian metal prod­ucts rep­re­sent a threat to Amer­i­can se­cu­rity as both “ab­surd” and “hurt­ful,” and said that Canada had no choice but to re­cip­ro­cate with tit-for-tat, dol­lar-for-dol­lar tar­iffs of its own.

She called the Amer­i­can tar­iffs a “naked ex­am­ple of the United States putting its thumb on the scale, in vi­o­la­tion of the very rules it helped to write.”

Af­ter meet­ing Thurs­day with Trump’s main NAFTA ne­go­tia­tor Robert Lighthizer to keep the mod­ern­iz­ing of the three-coun­try trade pact from dis­ap­pear­ing down the prover­bial bowl, Free­land was off to Toronto for a sched­uled meet­ing with her new­est ally in this war of words and ac­tions, Ontario Pre­mier-des­ig­nate Doug Ford.

“The stakes are high,” Ford said Wed­nes­day, fol­low­ing a meet­ing with auto and steel in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives. “Thou­sands of jobs rely on the out­come of th­ese (NAFTA) talks. Thou­sands of Ontario fam­i­lies are count­ing on us to de­fend their in­ter­ests.”

Af­ter stat­ing that “name-calling is not ac­cept­able what­ever,” the of­ten-blus­tery Ford said he wanted “to be very clear that we stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der with our fed­eral coun­ter­parts” — even though he was highly crit­i­cal of the Trudeau gov­ern­ment dur­ing his run for lead­er­ship of his prov­ince’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives.

What Free­land, her­self, wanted to make very clear was that Trump’s tar­iffs and NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tions were two sep­a­rate mat­ters.

One does not kill off the other.

But they do in­flict wounds.

Chrys­tia Free­land speaks af­ter re­ceiv­ing For­eign Pol­icy’s Diplo­mat of the Year 2018 award in Wash­ing­ton. JOSE LUIS/AP



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