Saturday, January 28, 2017

When You Deal With Caligula

This week the world got an object lesson in how Donald Trump deals with his trading partners. He will build a wall between the United States and Mexico and lie about who will pay for it. Trump doesn't know much. If he knew any history, he would remember the Maginot Line -- a wall which France built after World War I along its German border to keep German troops out. When World War II began, the Germans simply flew over the wall.

The Mexicans will find a way over or under the wall. It's a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Justin Trudeau assumes that Donald Trump lives in the 21st Century, where rational analysis wins the day. Tom Walkom writes:

Still, the Trudeau government remains resolutely upbeat. It points out that Canada is the top export market for 35 American states. Its officials talk knowledgeably about supply chains and the economics of continental integration.

The Trudeau ministry was cheered when Stephen Schwartzman, the head of a business group advising Trump, showed up this week at their Calgary cabinet retreat to praise Canada.
But civil libertarians were equally cheered this month when four senior Trump appointees, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, said they opposed torture. That didn’t stop Trump from raising this particular idea again.

Some 23 American states export $1 billion each to Mexico each year under NAFTA. Yet that has not moderated Trump’s views. I’m not sure why the Canadian government thinks its facts and figures will be any more successful.

At a Republican congressional retreat yesterday, Trump said he wants to replace multilateral trade agreements with one-on-one deals. Does that formula apply to NAFTA? Does he want to replace it with separate Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. pacts? He didn’t say.

When his negotiators eventually start talking to Canada what will they want? He didn’t address that either.

Trump has a chaotic mind and an impulsive personality. Walkom warns that Trudeau should be prepared to walk away from whatever Trump demands. History offers another lesson. When you're dealing with Caligula, rational analysis doesn't work.


Anonymous said...

Owen, it appears that GM is being compensated for retaining operations in the US instead of Mexico by shifting operations from Canada to Mexico instead. So the Liberal government must remain diligent and take the necessary steps to protect the Canadian economy and its citizens. They cannot lay back. RG

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, RG. If GM can't take the jobs from the U.S, they'll take them from Canada.

zoombats in Hong Kong said...

Just wait and see how much bargaining power we have over trade when the UK comes "begging" a deal with the US. It will be a "take it or leave it" attitude when our UK cousins kneel before the Maniacal Trump.

Owen Gray said...

There was an air of desperation about Theresa May's visit to Washington, zoombats -- just the kind of response Trump prefers. As Britain leaves Europe, it's looking for all the business it can drum up.

John B. said...

Canada was the lowest hanging fruit when it came to making these thinly disguised wage suppression and regulatory avoidance deals. It shouldn't surprise anybody that nothing has changed in that respect now that the process of unmaking them has begun.

"Trudeau's top aides, principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford, have met with top Trump officials, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner."

Great! These kids who wouldn't rate a nod at the county bonspiel are going to sort out Canada's business with the most conniving evil bastards that ever slithered into American politics? Yuk, yuk, yuk.

Wait a minute! Did I see Ben Mulroney's dad taking a look at the wheel barrow? Maybe Norton Rose has given him some well-deserved time off from the China file. Then again, maybe he's still on that timesheet.

Owen Gray said...

I've read that Mulroney is one of Trump's Palm Beach neighbours, John. I suspect they've been shmoozing with each other for sometime.