Things just got real

Justin Trudeau, in a bizarre performance at the final press conference of the G-7 conference, managed to thoroughly piss off Donald Trump. To the point that Trump called him dishonest.

Now the Donald is going to be occupied with North Korea for the next few days and, at a guess, having withdrawn America’s consent to the G-7 communique may simply forget Trudeau’s deeply cowardly remarks. (It is cowardly to say things about a person when they have left the building when you had the opportunity to say them to that person’s face.) That is the best Trudeau can hope for. More likely, Trump will have detailed a hard man in a suit to run the numbers on Canada’s trade with the US and find out just how many cars we send south every year. These are not hard answers to find and when those numbers go back to Trump there is very little to stop him from dropping a 25% tariff on those cars.

I said over at Kate’s that the Americans see trade negotiations as business, the Canadians see them as politics.

From a business perspective, a 25% tariff on cars made in Canada will lead to more cars being made in the US. The transition will be a bit uncomfortable for a number of large US companies but in the overall American economy, it will be a blip.

In Canada? In Canada, more specifically Ontario, the destruction of the auto industry would be a full scale, all hands on deck, disaster. Realistically, the auto sector is Ontario’s largest private sector employer and the largest manufacturing sector. Being priced out of the US market would kill tens of thousands of well-paid jobs.

Trump has taken the measure of Trudeau and his tiny, annoying, Minister of External Affairs, Chrystia Freeland and concluded they are featherweights. Which means that Canada is potentially screwed because Trump has no faith in our leadership. You don’t call people dishonest publically if you plan to do business with them.

It is unlikely that Trudeau will be aware of just how badly he has failed for a few days. The Canadian media are heavily invested in a narrative which has Justin standing up to the big, bad, Trump. Trudeau’s tone-deaf advisors are, no doubt, revelling in the fact they got lots of “gender” language into the communique.

It will take a few days for the more sober side of the media to realize what peril Trudeau has put us in. And a few more for the geniuses in the PMO to figure out that Trump is not playing the same game as they are.

When they do figure it out the question will arise, “What the fuck do we do now?”

As I am quite sure Butz and his posse read this blog I have a simple suggestion.

Normally, I would have suggested they get in touch with Simon Reisman who negotiated both the Auto-Pac and NAFTA. Alas, Reisman is dead.

Second best by a long shot? Brian Mulroney. A man I have next to no time for but who a) managed to get Canadians onboard for NAFTA, b) was a quite successful Canadian Prime Minister, c) is wired into both Trump World and broad swaths of corporate America.

If Trudeau could get Mulroney to do it Mulroney would be going into the US with a serious, well thought out, everything on the table, pitch. Likely starting with first principles – no tariffs, no subsidies, no non-tariff barriers. Be prepared to dump dairy and end transhipment of Chinese steel. And pitch it to the Trump people as the template for the deals which could be made with the EU, Japan, India and so on. (China is a whole other thing.)

The key point here is that Canada has to move, and move quickly, away from the finger-wagging politics of gender inclusion and climate change to a hard-nosed business approach to getting the best deal we can with an America which is now willing to put its own interests first.

Our leverage is that, while Trump is perfectly willing to talk tough, he also seems to like having a few friends. Canada, notwithstanding our dolt of a PM, has been and could be the staunch friend Trump needs.

Mulroney might just be able to pull this off. Here’s why:

[Back story: Peter Newman released a set of transcripts of Mulroney “unbuttoned” without Mulroney’s consent.]

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7 thoughts on “Things just got real

  1. derek says:

    Tuesday last week I said in conversation with someone that Canada is going to lose its auto industry. I know nothing and yet I knew this was at stake.

    I could think that Trudeau and are are a bunch of blithering idiots, and maybe he right. Our I could think that they know how fragile the Canadian economy is right now, a hairbreadth away from a real estate collapse, bank collapse catastrophe, dependent on Chinese money continuing to flow into the country because of Nafta driven access to the US market. Meaning that they cannot renegotiate without causing the above mentioned catastrophe.

    The Kinder Morgan purchase oozes with desperation.

    In the world Trump comes from if you are vulnerable and stretched out too far, you leave the room with less than you came with. It is really not a good idea to set yourself up as the poster boy for how badly trade negotiations can go. Pour Les autres.

    • Jay Currie says:

      Yup.

      But never fear: our Munchkin Minister of External Affairs has waggled her stubby little finger and called Trump’s remarks “inappropriate”. And superstar commentator, Warren “The Lying Jackal” Kinsella has suggested that supporting Trudeau is a matter of Canadian patriotism.

      I suspect Trump is shaking in his boots.

      • Fred from BC says:

        Yes…shaking from suppressed laughter.

        It’s unbelievable how many of Warren’s regulars are buying into this fantasy, thinking that Canada could possibly win a trade war with the US.

        On the plus side, we may end up with a deal that excludes Mexico.

  2. […] on tariffs and could care less if all the Canadas rise as one in support of the Little Potato. As I pointed out below, at virtually no cost to the American economy, Trump can pretty much wipe out the one bit of […]

  3. Cytotoxic says:

    Trudeau really isn’t the problem here, it’s an imbecile protectionist president that is the common denominator of various PO’d countries. Ideally we’d just opt for unilateral free trade, but barring that FTAs with everyone Trump is spurning + China works too. Mexico is a growing market.

    • Fred from BC says:

      I see. (NDP supporter, right? I can usually spot them)…

      So…an “imbecile” billionaire, then? That’s a new one. I’ll tell you what *is* imbecilic, though: any talk of ‘free trade’ between Canada and third-world countries. Utterly asinine, Yeah, why not?….let’s try and compete with countries that have virtually no environmental, safety or labor standards. That’ll work out well for us, I’m sure.

  4. Neil Wilson says:

    Here is what I posted on my fb page May 31:

    Our dear PM is trying to put things into NAFTA that do not belong in a trade deal – e.g. indigenous rights. Anyone with any knowledge of this kind of stuff will tell you that social justice policies don’t fit into a trade deal; it’s like trying to tell Mr. Xi that we have to have human rights clauses in any China trade deal and when Skippy actually tried to do this he got booted out of China making himself an international laughing stock.

    Our dear snow-boarding PM should have recognized from the start that he is dealing with a bully – but a powerful bully – and governed himself accordingly. At first I thought he was going about the NAFTA re-negotiations properly, engaging Brian Mulroney as a go-between and sending out high-level Canadian folks to talk to US state governors. But alas, early promise was not fulfilled.

    Some things were clear at the outset: we need to keep the autopact; Trump needs movement on Canada’s supply management system to satisfy folks like Wisconsin dairy farmers. We should have re-negotiated bi-laterally and let Mexico do the same; then we could have seen if the three countries could marry up again. I would love to hear Brian Mulroney’s off the record opinion of how we actually did during the negotiations – am I wrong in denigrating Skippy or did he really F things up as it appears?

    Notwithstanding all of this, Skippy was bound to fail with his SJW stance in a trade deal and here we are. This is Trudeau’s failure to wear, not Trump’s.

    ———————————————————

    Update June 12:

    So Skippy decides to go “na nanny boo boo” to a bully whose reaction was, “[Trudeau] probably doesn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions and I see the television and he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States and I say ‘push him around? We just shook hands. It was very friendly. I [had] a good relationship with Justin Trudeau, I really did … other than he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn’t watching; he learned and that’s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada.”

    Talk about not understanding when you are being baited by a pro. Again, Trump knows how to negotiate and Skippy doesn’t so he his being manipulated into being the bad guy. I know what the PM said was relatively innocuous but it just needed any statement with a negative slant to allow Trump to play the victim and gain the upper hand. Why didn’t Skippy simply take the high road. Something like, “ Mr Trump has laid down some harsh terms but he likes to negotiate and so do I. We will soon reach an agreement.” Now wouldn’t that have been better than, “Canadians [read I] won’t be pushed around.”

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