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October 27, 2017 8:13 pm

Is Canada in Trump’s crosshairs regarding trade?

Sunday, November 20, 2016 @ 6:45 AM

By Peter Ewart

Donald Trump railed and blasted at how the “rest of the world” was getting away with murder in terms of trade with the US, a statement fraught with irony given the US’s long record of bullying other countries.   The two countries he mentioned the most were Mexico and China. 

However, although Trump often brought up NAFTA as an object of scorn, he rarely mentioned Canada, which is odd given that Canada is deeply enmeshed in NAFTA and is America’s largest trading partner.

Does this suggest, as some politicians and pundits claim, that Canada may not be targeted as harshly as Mexico, China and other countries?  Far from it.  To think that way could prove naïve.

Indeed, a leaked memo to CNN apparently from the Trump transition team suggests the opposite (1).  The memo reveals that the Trump team is considering a 200-day plan built around five main principles to drive the negotiation.  The plan clearly states that “new trade agreements will be negotiated that provide for the interests of US workers and companies first” (2).  If the memo is authentic, this suggests that any thought of trade for mutual benefit is thrown out the window and other countries like Canada will necessarily come “second.”

The memo indicates that the process will start on Day 1 with the US plans for NAFTA reform and conclude on Day 200 when the US will consider formal withdrawal from the trade pact if an agreement is not reached with Canada and Mexico.

According to CNN, Day 1 negotiations will begin with the US Trade Representative notifying Canada and Mexico that the US will propose amendments to NAFTA and other trade arrangements, including “measures on currency manipulation, lumber, country of origin labeling and environmental and safety standards.”  Beyond NAFTA, the US side will aim to stop what it calls “unfair imports” and “unfair trade practices”.

It is interesting to note that two of the four “measures” that are singled out for attention apply especially to Canada, i.e. lumber and country of origin labelling (meat exports, etc.), both of which have been extremely contentious issues in trade between Canada and the US, and involve billions of dollars.  Such a negotiating thrust from the US side could have huge consequences for the Canadian economy, and, more specifically, on British Columbian workers and communities that depend on forestry manufacturing.

As the CNN article points out, “Canada gets in more NAFTA trouble than Mexico” with the US bringing 35 complaints against Canada over the last twenty-two years, while bringing only 20 complaints against Mexico.  It also mentions the Softwood Lumber dispute as being “a very sour point in Canadian-American relations for quite a while” and even hearkens back to the bitter US – Canada trade war in the 1930s when the US, through the Smoot-Hawley Act “slapped tariffs on all countries that shipped goods to America.”

In a pointed jab, the CNN analyst argues that US tariffs on various goods from other countries are not nearly as high as Canada’s.

Some Canadian officials are suggesting that, if NAFTA is ended, Canada could simply fall back on the older Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  But Establishment analysts, such as Terence Corcoran of the National Post, argue that the US side might put the FTA itself back on the table for re-negotiation, which could impact “agricultural protections, intellectual property, environmental regulations, telecom rules, and labour provisions” in Canada (3).

For his part, Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, claims that “statements Mr. Trump made during the campaign suggest every aspect of Canada-US trade is up for negotiations.”

All of this suggests that trade with Canada is squarely in the Trump administration’s crosshairs, perhaps in certain ways (which will be discussed in future columns) even more than Mexico.

So, if the Trump team felt so strongly this way about trade with Canada (as revealed in the leaked memo) why did Donald Trump not emphasize the Canada “trade problem” during the presidential election campaign as frequently as he did Mexico?  Is there some kind of deception or misdirection going on here?

Some media pundits claim that Donald Trump is often erratic and unscripted, which is why he says different, sometimes contradictory things about the same topic, while leaving other things out.

But to completely believe that about Trump could be a big mistake.  More information is coming out about how Trump’s digital / social media election campaign was organized.  It appears that some or even many of his so-called unscripted and off-the-cuff statements, including the inflammatory and contradictory ones, may have been quite deliberately put forward as tests and then adjusted and revised in response to surveys and feedback from assembled online groups.

So, Trump leaving out references to trade with Canada and emphasizing Mexico may not have been so accidental after all.   Perhaps in hopes of winning votes, Trump made inflammatory, hostile statements against Mexico, claiming that many Hispanic undocumented immigrants from there were “rapists, drug dealers and murderers”.  How would similar Canada bashing have gone over with US voters?   Probably not so well for various reasons, including the reality that there are far fewer undocumented Canadians inside the US.

Did Trump craft his message to deliberately exclude Canada with the aim of playing hard ball after the election smoke clears?  Indeed, will Canada be the main target, not Mexico or China?  We will see.

Clearly, the next four years will not be business as usual on the trade front and could be something much worse for both Canadian and American workers, especially if trade wars break out.

In the face of Trump administration arrogance and bullying, what will Canada’s own nation-building strategy be?  A big problem in developing one is that the Canadian big business Establishment gave up nation-building many decades ago and embraced continentalism and unfair trade arrangements like NAFTA and the FTA, which, in effect, have made Canadian workers, as well as, small and medium businesses based in Canada, particularly vulnerable to the chauvinistic demands of the US / North American oligarchy.

We, the people of Canada, need a new nation-building strategy that, while embracing global trade for mutual benefit, moves toward a more all-sided, self-reliant economy, one that can stand firm against global economic storms and big power pressure.

(1)    Gillespie, Patrick.  America’s NAFTA nemesis: Canada, not Mexico.  CNN.  November 16, 2016.  http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/16/news/economy/nafta-canada/

(2)    Kopan, Tal.  Trump transition memo: Trade reform begins Day 1.  CNN, November 16, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/15/politics/donald-trump-trade-memo-transition/index.html

(3)    Corcoran, Terence.  Canada could be in for a lot more trade trouble under Trump than just NAFTA.  Financial Post.  November 17, 2016.  http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/terence-corcoran-canada-could-be-in-for-a-lot-more-trade-trouble-under-trump-than-just-nafta


Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca












He hasn’t even taken office yet

All I can see is media driving people into a frenzy with all the speculation on Trump. Why not wait until there is some news to report on before making up hypothetical news?

We will send our half baked bi polar pot smoker down to straighten things out.

    They can compare hair.

      Dang, no more “like” button

You lost me at CNN! Least credible liberal MSM on the planet. Oops other than CBC

The US has had a trade deficit every year since 1989. This means every year the US imports more goods than it exports, reflecting the fact that the United States has become a country that consumers more than it produces. If it is trade wars that this new President wants I say let him, the US citizens need to lose weight anyway.

ht tps://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c0004.html

If I were Justine Trudeau, I would be on the phone with other members of the G-8 and G-20 making arrangements for a unified trade embargo against the US, for the simple reason that; if the US can start a trade war with its closest allies and neighbours (Canada and Mexico), no country in the world is safe from an extreme US protectionist A-hole like Donald Trump. I say gather our allies and coordinate with them to create a unified trade embargo against the US, if it has to come to that. Because IMO it might be the only way someone as power hungry, and egocentric, as the Donald can get the message!!!

Looks like it might be time to prepare for war, a trade war, because who would be surprised that someone like the Donald would start one?

    We could call it project defeatism… A trade embargo against our natural ally that buys 80% of our exports?

You are giving too much credit to Trump! Wait until the game stars until you predict the score.


Sure lets start a trade war with the biggest buyer of our goods.

I am always amazed how Canadians refuse to face the fact that they sold out our interests to the USA many years ago. It was not just the Canadian Big Business that gave up on nation building, it was also the Canadian people, who took the **easier softer way** by trading 80% or more of produced goods to the good old USA. Who wouldn’t get off their fat butts, and establish trade on a larger scale with Countries around the world.

We became dependent on the USA not only to buy most of our production, but to also let them look after our national defense. Over time we became the weak kneed cousins of the Americans. Trying to play amateur hardball with professional players.

It is now possible that we will reap what we sowed. What will we do about it?? Will we cry foul about the Softwood Lumber Agreement like we always do, knowing full well that at any given moment we are dumping lumber into the US.?

A large number of so called Canadian companies, are in fact American, and have been for many years. This includes lumber companies, mines, oil companies, etc; etc; So are these companies going to take a hit from the US when they are in fact owned by the US?? Somehow I doubt it.

If we want to be an independent sovereign nation, I suggest that we first get back our Country, invest Canadian dollars in Canadian business’s, and start to act like a real country as opposed to a nation of whiners and snifflers, who always find someone, or something else to blame for the problems that we created.

As on old fellow said many years ago. **If you want potatoes, you better get yourself a shovel and start digging**

Time to grow up Canada.

    Palopu nailed it on this topic. Trudeau is a globalists and will sell out Canada to other nations and the money sucking UN.

    I for one do not want other countries telling us what to do or unelected bureaucrats in the UN dictating to us. This is what trump will and try and do with the US. It may not bode well for Canada but it is maybe a wake up call. Lets see if the perpetually smirking Trudeau can find his big boy boots.

      You two haven’t really “nailed” anything. Except that the choice for the future you’re laying out will be whether we make Trump the greatest acquisitive US President of all time, and politically become part of the USA; or continue to follow the route pretty boy ‘Justine’ has been told to lay out for us, and become a post-national, global State that kow-tows completely to the whims of the United Nations and its ancillary organisms where the real power continues to lie, the IMF and World Bank and those who run the world’s money.

      There is a better way, but ‘financial ignorance’ is still the Achilles heel of Conservatism.

That would be awesome to see… the west half of canada join usa.

    The ‘best’ half. But if you look at some of the on-line US west coast newspapers they’ve got editorials and letters-to-the-editor coming in galore speculating whether the western States Clinton carried could secede and join Canada.

    Regardless, while western Canada joining the US might solve the softwood lumber and pipeline problems, our long term economic prospects wouldn’t really be any better going that way than they’re going to be having global free trade deals with everyone in sight and open borders to all comers.

    Prior to World War Two, the USA was virtually self-sufficient internally in everything it needed or desired to consume. But it couldn’t make its economy work ‘financially’ without exports. Harry Hopkins, FDR’s closest advisor, is on record as saying that the then neutral USA couldn’t allow a Nazi victory once the war started, not because the future of democracy was at stake, or the Nazis were horrible monsters, or anything like that, but because such a victory would “…wreck American export markets.”

    They didn’t need exports to pay for their imports. They had everything they needed in the USA. Except ‘money’ enough to consume it.

      Well Socred your time may have arrived. Trump blames the USFed and Wall Street bankers for a betrayal of America. It’s what got him elected. He thinks there is a special place in hell for the likes of Janet Yellen the fed chairman.

      Trump would say on his stump speeches that a working class citizen from main street had to make huge sacrifices to save $100 a month over forty years for retirement… Savings that built America, and savings that one intended to get a good return on to build a nest egg for a proper retirement… A retirement savings that he says the Wall Street bankers and the US fed stole through quantitative easing printing money like paper to bail out the corruption on Wall Street and manipulate interest rates to near zero for over a decade wiping out everyone’s value and returns in their pension savings. And the crowds would go wild, then he would point to the media covering him and say these people are the most dishonest in America. It’s why I supported him.

      And as luck would have it Trump will be appointing five of the seven USFed board of governors in the next year and a half as well as the next fed chairman. He has the power to make the fed whatever he wants and it’s his highest priority after national defence.

      Trump could even direct his appointees to fold the USFed into a government agency like the Treasury Department and take it out of private banksters hands. He may have to do this to fix the $20 trillion dollar debt and Fed Ponzi scheme as it blows up on his watch.

      Unlike JFK who tried to do this and was killed for it… Trump has no less than 15 private security firms working on his protection as well as the secret service… JFK only had the secret service so guys like Bush and Johnston were able to make short work of him.

This site needs it’s own theme song. Dueling Banjos ought to do it.

I think we knew Trump would be president for months now, so none of this should come as a surprise. Hopefully our leadership was planning contingencies and studying Trump without the left wing binders on.

The problem with the left is they act like bolshiviks when it comes to prioritizing their policy objectives over the people and countries they claim to represent. They will run the scorched earth policy rather than negotiate in good faith as a perverted way to save face with their world view in the belief that to give an inch will discredit their entire political ideology.

I think we need to look at this from a win win perspective when negotiating with a Trump administration. It’s the only way it will work. If we are the ones initiating a trade war Trump has both houses, the Supreme Court and with a year he will be appointing five out of the seven USFed governers including its Chairman (calls the current one a traitor that robbed a generation of its savings).

We know we can expect higher interest rates, we know if Trump makes any deal his word will damn near be the law, we know he appreciates an opponent that fights hard for its constituents but has no time for someone that is disloyal to him or who ever they represent.

So let’s have a strong case to put forward, let’s be open to having a real log market (maybe we could have a real log market that opens up opportunities to companies outside the oligarchic monopolies, but still have auprentacy for local logs… Why not); and maybe we can bring other issues into the negotiation like national defence responsibilities that trump all other issues for Trump… Like securing our ports from nuclear infiltration, or fighting Islamic extremism, or how we defend our north. We could make a real case and win over a strong ally for our cause… We just can’t be stupid about it and back a thousand pound grizzly bear into a corner with a butter knife is all.

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