Saturday, June 02, 2018

Making Friends and Influencing People

President Donald Trump is imposing 25 per cent steel tariffs and 10 per cent aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, all of which he had previously exempted. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded Thursday with his own list of tariffs to take effect in July.
President Donald Trump is imposing 25 per cent steel tariffs and 10 per cent aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, all of which he had previously exempted. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded Thursday with his own list of tariffs to take effect in July.  (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)
"It's more than highly unusual. It's unprecedented to have gone after so many U.S. allies and trading partners, alienating them, and forcing them to retaliate."
"It's hard to see how the U.S. is going to come out well from this whole exercise."
Economist Douglas Irwin, author of a history of U.S. trade policy

"This is dumb."
"Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents."
Republican Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska

"These are blips on the radar screen. I don't think they change the fundamentals of the relationship."
"Everybody has spats every now and again, every family does, every country does with others, there's nothing weird about that."
"I think everybody will get over this in due course."
U.S. Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross

"Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral. It's not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end."
"It's entirely up to U.S. authorities whether they want to enter into a trade conflict with their biggest partner, Europe."
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire
U.S. President Donald J. Trump has a penchant for waking up sleepy world leaders to the fact that this is not a boring, predictable, reliable administration that he leads at the helm of the world's most wealthy, influential and feared nation. President Trump believes in himself, in the acuity of his judgement, the faultless strategies he is capable of engineering, as he fulminates on the indignities foisted on the United States of America, catering to the whims and wishes of lesser nations labouring under the quaint notion that they are equals.

He's just cutting them down a peg or two to face reality. They can fume and bluster to their little hearts' content, but he carries the big stick and curries relationships that he feels give due credit to him and to his nation. Don't like it? Tough. He is busy, this man, restoring America to its former greatness. He might want to take a lesson from Canada's Justin Trudeau who famously neighed "Canada is Back!" when he went on international junkets as the newly-minted Prime Minister in 2015.

Canada is back to being a middling nation of little international influence and clout which provides more than its share of global amusement at the antics of its irrepressible, juvenile, maladjusted and conceited prime minister. Who gets all his cues wrong, affronts international colleagues with his petulant demands, and puts on a show par none when abroad, dressed to the nines, chortling about how very special he is, garbed as a Bollywood star.

Under his watch the Canadian economy is on the verge of tanking. Good thing he has a very special relationship with Donald J. Trump; they get on swimmingly together; one the antithesis of the other. Feminist Trudeau and Groping Trump. The government of Mexico is prepared to levy import taxes on various of American exports just as the European Union is prepared to target over $4-billion in U.S. products, but Canada leaves them all in the dust with its reciprocal trade assault on U.S. exports of $`6.6-billion in just retaliation over Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs.

That'll show Canada's largest trading partner who's who in this business of international free trade. "These tariffs are an affront to the longstanding security partnership between Canada and the United States and in particular an affront to the Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers-in-arms", saith Justin Trudeau. So Canada's participation in the Second World War alongside mother-country Britain second-guessed? Canada went to war not to assure justice would be done and decency prevail, but to please the Americans?

Of course, as a late-comer to that war, the U.S. did all the mopping up its war-exhausted allies depended on. This new war has excited not emotions of we're all in this together, but who the hell do they think they are? The answer may be on the horizon when tariffs are implemented on U.S. auto imports hitting suppliers from Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany, let alone Chinese goods. Steel and Aluminum tariffs are bad enough, but there's always more from that fertile mind yet to be revealed.

When the U.S. trade negotiators say they're impatient over lagging trade concessions from trade partners, they really, really do mean it. On the other hand the White House might wake up to a new reality where "the spectre of an escalation is likely to weigh on business sentiment and may derail the investment recovery", according to Oliver Rakau economist with Oxford Economics. Sparks may yet fly, and the opportunity for that to happen is coming right up, as G7 heads meet in Charlevoix, Quebec next week.

With the revolving presidency of the G7, Canada is set to play host at the G7 Summit to a fairly hostile group of friendly governments on the imposition of steel tariffs. The big question is whether, given the chaotic, outraged excitement of this week, Donald Trump will deign to show up, to discuss matters of global interest shared between the U.S., Japan, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Germany. A friendship of common interests that may seem a trifle fractured of late.

The 405-room Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Que., will host the 44th annual G7 summit on June 8-9, when the leaders of seven industrialized countries, their spouses and other dignitaries make their way to the idyllic Charlevoix region about 150 kilometres northeast of Quebec City. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

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