An expert poker player plays his hand with ease, gusto, and grace. A good negotiator, likewise, is keenly aware of the hand that he’s been dealt. Justin Trudeau, by this rubric, is a clown, as his recent G7 fiasco over U.S.-Canada trade demonstrates. The Canadian Prime Minister’s reckless behaviour, and that of his shrill harpy, Chrystia Freeland, might cost Canadians their jobs and paycheques.
The ruckus began when U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, phoned Trudeau last week, as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) talks were being finalized, to discuss a sunset clause, which would require NAFTA to expire every five years. This is a classic bargaining tactic: throw in an addendum, last-minute, to test a partner’s resolve. Instead of manning up and playing the game, Trudeau went on TV, calling Trump’s position “insulting,” and announcing that Canada will retaliate with protectionist measures. Freeland did her part, appearing on CNN, and mocking Donald Trump’s steel tariffs with her headache-inducing, sanctimonious platitudes.
Such hawkish rhetoric might work for a powerful nation, like the United States or Russia, but it is laughable when Canada uses it for an issue like trade. The United States can survive without us, but we cannot profit without them. U.S. exports to Canada claim 1.9% of their GDP; Canadian exports to the U.S. comprise 22% of Canada’s GDP. This is particularly stark in certain sectors. For example, according to Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau, 90 to 95 percent of Canadian automobiles are exported to the United States. Textbook economic theory is hardly a guide here. We need the U.S. more than they need us.
Trudeau’s bumbling tomfoolery might, in fact, be a political ploy: appearing resilient against Trump plays well with Canadian voters. This would help Trudeau’s scandal-ridden Liberal Party of Canada, as it loses support across the nation. Justin Trudeau’s father, while he was Prime Minister in the 70s and 80s, also irritated the United States, by genuflecting before barbaric regimes like communist China and Castro’s Cuba.
A small nation can be strong yet conciliatory. Canada’s hand is mediocre at best, and instead of doing his best with the cards he has been dealt, Justin Trudeau has, like a spoiled child, fled the game crying – leaving the chips to be cashed in by Trump.