It was a great week for Canada in terms of trade on several fronts. You can say many negative things about Prime Minister Trudeau, but you cannot take away his government’s effort to extend Harper’s commitment to trade.
There is much discussion and renegotiation to still happen, but the week of February 13th was very good for Canada, and should please the agriculture industry.
The week started with the highly anticipated first face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Donald Trump, which went spectacularly well because nothing really happened. When I say nothing happened, I mean nothing bad. Other meetings with President Trump have turned into squabbles (for example Germany and Australia.)
As former ag minister, now trade critic Gerry Ritz mentioned, nothing really happened at the meeting, and based on how other country’s leaders have been judged by Trump, Canadians should be happy the quiet summit. I’m sure Mexico, Germany, and Australia would love this “nothing happened” kind of meeting.
After the trip to Washington, Prime Minister Trudeau made his way to France and Germany to speak on the importance of the European Union ratifying CETA.
Trudeau told the European Parliament they must sell their citizens on the virtues of the Canada-EU trade deal or it will the last of its kind due to the recent global push to bilateral agreements.
“If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals. If we are not, this could well be one of the last. So make no mistake about it, this is an important moment,”
Remember that trade minister Chrystia Freeland walked away from the CETA negotiation which created much controversy that the Trudeau camp had no clue what it was doing. Ultimately, this hardball tactic brought the Wallonians in line with the rest of the European pack. This was highly controversial at that point, as discussed by Politico European correspondent Ryan Heath but it appears to have been the smart move by the Canadians.
Then over the weekend, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sat beside and serenaded the president, who he’s known for 25-plus years, at a cancer research fundraiser (which raised $2.3 million) at the Mara Lago Resort in Florida.
After being invited onto the stage by Canadian musician David Foster, Mulroney sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and when he returned to the Trump table, the President told Mr. Mulroney that “relationships are just great between Canada and the United States. Justin had a terrific trip down to Washington,” according to the Globe & Mail’s Robert Fife.
As the Globe also reported earlier this year, Trudeau’s office has enlisted Brian Mulroney as one of Canada’s big hired guns (although he denied being officially tapped when we asked) in fostering Canada’s interests among his friends in the White House, including Trump and commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross. Chances are Mulroney may have had a hand in how well-organized and uneventful the first Trudeau-Trump meeting was.
It appears to be very true at this point that Canada is not a target at all in Trump’s global attack on U.S. trade deficits. Phew…[wipes brow]
One of Canada’s smart moves has been to stay away from major public Trump backlash even though ideologically, Trump and Trudeau have little in common. For example, British Prime Minister Theresa May met with Trump and then soon after the British Speaker of the House of Commons told the world the US President should not be allowed to speak in the British parliament if invited.
Lets be honest, Canada is walking a global tight rope on trade, which involves keeping supply management pillars upright, expanding exports around the world, holding the Canada/U.S. trade bind tight with or without Mexico and pushing the Europeans ahead on the benefits of the multilateral trade agreement of CETA.
There are many questions on the status of the TPP but Canada will be in Chile for the gathering of the remaining interested countries, as well as South Korea and China, in March. Keeping the TPP group intact along with CETA and NAFTA would be the ultimate tightrope. Staying engaged on other fronts is also a smart play for Canada in negotiations with the U.S. (as Glen Hodgson of the Conference Board discussed here.)
There is still a lot of work to be done as many of us search for the real definition of “tweaking” but it looks like Canada is up to the challenge to keep Canada trading. Right now Canada has some momentum, but the thing about momentum is that it can be lost at any time. And this trade momentum should be music to Canadian agriculture’s ears, no matter which political party farmers are loyal to.