How they see us: Canada feels tricked by Trump
Canada is in “a near-impossible situation” on NAFTA, said Barrie McKenna in The Globe and Mail. U.S. President Donald Trump took office demanding renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but rather than making deals, he has just made threats. Canada is supposed to “cave to a series of hard-line U.S. demands” or get hit with a 25 percent tariff on autos “that could plunge much of the country into recession.” Trump says if Canada won’t concede, the U.S. will make a separate side deal with the third NAFTA nation, Mexico, leaving us out. Yet the negotiations are manifestly in bad faith. In an off-the-record comment to a reporter, which was leaked last week, Trump admitted that he had no intention of compromising on anything with Ottawa but that he couldn’t say so, because, in his words, “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.” After fuming about the leak on Twitter, he then shrugged, saying, “At least Canada knows where I stand.” Indeed we do. How can we negotiate a free trade deal “with an adversary who doesn’t believe in the basic principles of free trade”?
Trump’s demands are utterly disingenuous, said Julaine Treur in the Chilliwack Progress. He routinely rants about what he claims is unfair government support for the Canadian dairy industry, and wants all those tariffs and subsidies removed. But Canada needs to protect this sector—which has the “strictest animal welfare, milk quality, and food safety standards in the world”—to ensure it’s not undercut by giant U.S. agribusinesses. And guess what? The U.S. protects its own dairy industry, but while we let 10 percent of dairy imports come into Canada tariff free, the U.S. waives duties on less than 3 percent. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has played this all wrong, said the National Post in an editorial, insisting that “no NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal.” But how bad is Trump’s supposed bad deal? Most Canadians would be fine with paying less for U.S. cheese and milk while saving the rest of our economy from crippling auto tariffs. It’s too late now, though. Given Trump’s insults, Trudeau can’t accept any deal “absent a major, placating concession” from Trump. Which will never happen.
Our first mistake was letting Trump turn “what should have been multilateral trade negotiations into two bilateral sets of talks,” said Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland keeps insisting that a “win-win-win” NAFTA agreement is within reach for all three parties, but that’s not where we are at all. Trump pressured the Mexicans to negotiate an initial deal bilaterally, and now Canada is on its own. Whatever ends up in the deal, Trump will be the only party to have won, by “making Canada and Mexico fall into his isolationist, anti-multilateral way of looking at trade relations.” ■