The Resistance to Free Trade Negotiations

Chrystia Freeland attended a panel discussion titled “Taking on the Tyrant” at the Women in the World summit in Toronto on September 10th
Chrystia Freeland attended a panel discussion titled “Taking on the Tyrant” at the Women in the World summit in Toronto on September 10th

The first signs of an unfavorable trade deal for Canada came just after the G7 press conference. Donald Trump announced “That’s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada.” in reference to Justin Trudeau pushed back on Trump’s proposed tariffs.

Another mistake in North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on September 10th. She joined an anti-Trump panel discussion in Toronto.

The “Taking on the Tyrant” panel opened with a video of populist world leaders and authoritarians including Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, Bashar al-Assad. However, the video was clearly aimed at Trump.

“Taking on the Tyrant” was another resistance effort, in a long list of events targeting Trump last week. Like the Bob Woodward book, The New York Times anonymous op-ed, and the Chief Resistant Officer Barack Obama breaking tradition and speaking out against his successor.

Why would the head negotiator on a deal representing 25% of the Canadian economy, participate in a discussion labeling our greatest trading partner a totalitarian tyrant?  

Participating in an anti-Trump event and insulting her chief negotiating partner may not have been the intent of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Or perhaps things are not going as expected in the negotiation, and that was exactly the purpose of attending. 

Could you imagine the Mexican officials, who worked hard for weeks straight to craft a deal, break off from the negotiations to attend a conference that slammed their political ally?

For a foreign minister to participate in this event, at such a critical moment of the negotiations, supports the premise that the Liberal Party is vying to win anti-Trump votes as a strategy heading into the 2019 Canadian Federal election.

Signs of stalling

Before the “Taking on the Tyrant” event there had been other signs that the Liberal government was being insincere in the negotiation or stalling for time.

The two original directives for Canada in the NAFTA negotiation were firstly the five-year sunset clause. And secondly, that no deal would be done without Mexico. With these two elements off the table due to Mexico making a bi-lateral deal, Trudeau began to place emphasis on a dispute settlement clause.

The emphasis on the dispute resolution mechanism (known as Chapter 19) seems out in left field since this clause has little useful effect. In essence, the sticking point for Trudeau on Chapter 19 is having the appeal process done by a bi-national panel instead of the proposed the U.S. judicial system.

Trudeau was quoted saying in a radio interview. “We need to keep the Chapter 19 dispute resolution because that ensures that the rules are actually followed and we know we have a president who doesn’t always follow the rules as they’re laid out”. 

This statement on Chapter 19, labeling Trump as a president who doesn’t always follow the rules, actually exhibits a mistrust to the U.S judicial system. No president has jurisdiction over trade disputes happening in the court system. Some trade experts agree that Chapter 19 is an inconsequential objection to raise.

Unfortunately for Canadians, it’s not looking good when Trudeau warned this week of potential ‘massive disruption’ to the Canadian auto sector. Trump warned us months ago. “I actually like Justin, you know, I think he’s good, I like him, but he shouldn’t have done that. That was a mistake. That’s going to cost him a lot of money” in an interview with ABC in reference to Trudeau’s comments made at the G7 summit in June.

Treating your best friend like a tyrant is not the way to win-win negotiations. Especially when that good friend is working hard to tame the real trade threat from China.