To the editor:
Say what we like about Donald Trump, he’s first and foremost a New York City hustler full of braggadocio and bluster. And that’s how people should deal with him.
His outlandish statements and his moves and counter-moves on tariffs and the Korea talks are mostly posturing for advantage. Baffle the opposition and get them confused and off balance and then swoop in for the win when they’re too wrong-footed to react.
His dealings on NAFTA show some persistent themes which he wants in any outcome, and we should take him seriously. He’s not too concerned about Canada, except for our supply management practices in agriculture and our laundering Chinese steel for export to the U.S. We should give him the win he wants on these things.
Stopping Chinese steel is easy. We should be ready to give up supply management for the sake of bigger things. This won’t win many friends in the Quebec and Ontario dairy industry, but it will be popular among Canadian consumers. Why should we pay artificially high prices for dairy and poultry products anyway? The U.S. and Europe would have to stop dumping heavily subsidized agricultural products in return.
Trump is determined to extract concessions from Mexico in the auto sector and on border issues, and these may be the real showstoppers in NAFTA. Trump also prefers the idea of a bilateral trade deal with Canada instead of the three amigos. We should go with this in a New York minute. Our own autoworkers aren’t happy with the wage disparities in Mexico either.
Trudeau is insisting on keeping Mexico in a three-way NAFTA and this may lead to our undoing. We are totally dependent on U.S. trade, which dwarfs our trade with Mexico, and we should opt for a bilateral deal rather than tying our destiny to Mexico for ideological reasons. Mexico isn’t a vital national interest for Canada. Trade with the U.S. is.
Mexicans are nice people, and they will still buy our canola and we can still buy their avocados outside of a NAFTA agreement. And we’ll continue to enrich them with our tourists who can’t stay away from the beaches of Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.
Trump is a realist. Justin Trudeau and the Liberals naively thought they could establish a relationship with him by talking about feminism, aboriginals and climate stuff. The fawning media was even praising Trudeau as something of a “Trump Whisperer” who could finesse the beast where others could not. That was all pure Pollyanna and was no doubt amusing to the Manhattan shark circling for the kill.
We should forget the ideology and be more pragmatic in our negotiations with Trump. Give him the win he’s looking for on the throwaway stuff and chances are we’ll come out fine on the big issues. NAFTA is good for both sides. We need smart psychology more than dumb sociology right now. And there’s only room for one narcissist when you’re on the stage with Trump.