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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:54 pm    Post subject: Rebooting Canada's failed NAFTA strategy Reply with quote

Rebooting Canada’s failed NAFTA strategy
By Danny Lam — The Conversation — Jan 12 2018
Danny Lam, University of Waterloo

Canada’s NAFTA strategy is in trouble, to the extent that officials reportedly fear the United States is about to withdraw from the deal.

Canada’s credibility with Americans has been damaged during the past year because political expediency has triumphed over institutional integrity. Understanding how Canada’s credibility has been damaged, and repairing it, will be key to a new start.

Robert Lighthizer, America’s top trade official, reacted to the latest Canadian WTO complaint by calling Canada’s strategy “ill-advised,” saying it could “lower U.S. confidence that Canada is committed to mutually beneficial trade.” He argued that Canada is “acting against its own workers’ and businesses’ interests. …. Other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada.”

This assessment by Lighthizer clearly indicates that Canadian trade strategy is not well-received where it matters.

Central to the federal government’s failed NAFTA approach is the reshuffled cabinet and “Trump Unit” created in the Prime Minister’s Office in the aftermath of U.S. President Donald Trump’s stunning victory in November 2016.

The unit was formulated to seek the opinions of key Trump figures, reach out in an attempt to change some of those opinions and implement a “rapid response” system in times of crisis.

It is a centrally directed organization in which the Liberal government orchestrates moves like an election campaign “war room” with the goal of dealing with Trump administration initiatives that include the NAFTA renegotiations and its challenge to Canadian subsidies of Bombardier.

Trump ‘war room

The “war room” is staffed by seasoned political operatives, including PMO figures like Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, cabinet ministers like Chrystia Freeland, Ambassador David MacNaughton and even journalist Michael Den Tandt. Problems and issues with the United States are dealt with as though they are “campaign issues.”

The Trump Unit will likely be disbanded as the 2019 federal election approaches, leaving career civil servants to take over the hard work of managing Canada-U.S. trade issues.

Trade negotiators, after all — unlike politicians — are all about long-term credibility, crafting good deals and sticking around to ensure those deals keep working. They smooth out differences and disagreements that inevitably arise as a deal is implemented over decades.

The late Simon Reisman, a longtime Canadian civil servant, owed no small measure of his success to his reputation and credibility in making not one, but successive deals work. He was relied upon by all political parties to solve the problems that inevitably arise in the implementation and evolution of any trade deal. The decades-long continuity of his deals is testament to his achievement.

The Liberals have seemingly abandoned the Reisman approach and are now treating Canada-U.S. relations as a political campaign against the Trump administration, assigning people to that strategy accordingly. Maintaining Canadian institutional integrity and credibility is apparently not a concern compared to “winning.”

The government has taken a win-at-all-cost, no-prisoners approach to relations with close allies who have historically relied on Canada’s steadfastness, credibility and trustworthiness.

Credibility problem
Canada now has a credibility problem thanks to the well-established pattern for successive governments to renege on commitments made by their predecessors, whether it’s the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 or NATO’s Wales Declaration in 2014.

For a fresh start, Canada has to speak with one voice on NAFTA and on Canada-U.S. relations. The government and trade experts, both in and out of government, must share their knowledge equally with all political parties and provinces.

Dramatically changing Canada’s political culture and established behaviour is out of the question in the short term. But it’s within the parliamentary tradition to form an ad hoc governing coalition for both NAFTA renegotiations and the Canada-U.S. relationship to ensure continuity by successive governments.

The Trump Unit should be replaced by a cabinet-level, Canada-U.S. relations committee consisting of MPs from all four major parties as well as provincial and territorial representatives. A new group of trade experts — call it the “America Unit” — can support and report directly to this team.

The first task for the restructured team should be to revisit Canada’s NAFTA renegotiation objectives and remove partisan demands that the U.S. is unlikely to entertain, in particular a “progressive” agenda that includes labour, gender, Aboriginal and environmental issues.

Stop issuing threats
Existing tactics, methods and means have to be reviewed and modified in light of the lack of progress in the past year.

For example, drop the use of veiled threats — especially since the threats don’t work. An example is during the Bombardier-Boeing dispute when Canada threatened not to buy Boeing fighters unless they dropped the Bombardier trade complaint.

American concerns that NAFTA is being exploited by countries like China have to be taken seriously. Rather than fight the U.S. on issues like Chapter 4 — which raises the NAFTA originating goods’ qualifying content to 85 per cent — how about working together to prevent abuses that are known to take place under the guise of free trade? Those loopholes need to be tightened in a renegotiated NAFTA.

The Liberal government also needs to come clean with Canadians as to what China is seeking in any kind of Canada-China trade deal, and what impact this would have on allies and trading partners who are in the process of tightening access to China. Have conflicts over China’s many demands of Canada influenced our stances on NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership?

Lighthizer noted that Canada’s just-filed WTO complaint would result in US$11.5 billion of Chinese products flooding into North America. Canadian taxpayers, therefore, are financing trade complaints against the U.S. that benefit totalitarian regimes like China.

Work with the U.S.
Working with the U.S. on export controls, sanctions, anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations, screening of foreign investments especially for national security risks, immigration, state-owned enterprises and co-ordinated measures to curb subversion by peer competitors are agenda items that the United States would welcome.

Yet these have not been raised as priority items by Canada’s NAFTA negotiators.

Linking Canadian national security/defence procurements with ongoing trade disputes like Bombardier/Boeing was a fatal blunder. Ambassador MacNaughton reportedly said to Boeing representatives something along the lines of: “I don’t do business with people suing me” and “You shouldn’t treat customers this way.”

This reported emotional outburst seems to have become Canadian government policy — and procurement of Boeing F/A-18s was abruptly suspended and then cancelled in retaliation. The failed threat also drew attention to Canada’s failure to meet NATO Article 3 treaty obligations to provide for an adequate self-defence.

What’s more, the Bombardier-Boeing dispute also exposed Canada undermining the U.S. government’s campaign to compel allies to contribute fairly to mutual defence.

Abiding by longstanding Canadian commitments to the alliance will do wonders to improve relations with allies and begin the process of undoing the damage done by the Liberal government.

A fresh start as outlined above will begin the process of reversing the damage and pay dividends in a revitalized trade and security partnership with our closest ally.

The people who know about trade issues the most are the most troubled by the way this negotiation has been bungled. Justin-the-Stupid Trudeau seems to think we have some weight to throw around. (Please don't giggle.) This is where this bunch of political hacks -- the 'Trump war room' as they style themselves -- is most out of their depth. (They prefer magic thinking about saving the planet.)

To change the strategy means accepting that the present strategy is a loser. And that probably requires humility and maturity, which is not the Trudeau-crats' long suit. We can hope for the best, but it's probably wise to prepare for something else.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trudeau, Scheer pitch dueling NAFTA narratives as uncertainty looms
By Amanda Connolly National Online Journalist Global News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer offered dueling narratives on negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in two press conferences held around southwestern Ontario on Friday.

In a speech before a Mississauga Board of Trade luncheon, Scheer accused the government of not acting quickly enough to recognize the pending uncertainty of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump would mean for Canadian trade and suggested Trudeau and his ministers squandered the chance to find solutions to some issues before Trump came into office.

“Here at home, we will be holding this Liberal government to account as to whether or not they’ve been taking this as seriously as they should have been as early as they should have been. Take for example the issue of softwood lumber, which is very important to our economy,” Scheer said, criticizing the government for not getting discussions on that file “over the finish line” before the Trump administration came in.

He suggested the approach to NAFTA in the final weeks of discussions may turn out the same way.

“Justin Trudeau doesn’t seem to have a plan,” Scheer said.

The Trudeau government began on Nov. 4, 2015, and Trump was elected on Nov. 8, 2016, before being inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.

The period between the election and inauguration of an incoming president is called a “lame duck session” in the U.S. because there is generally very little movement on political files as one administration makes way for the next.

Wow, does this mean Andrew is actually going to pull his big-boy pants on, and contend? It's pretty weak gruel, given the way they've mishandled this project. But stlll, it's a start.

This is my view. Even if Trump wasn't elected, the issue of trade was going to loom larger. Out top civil servants in charge of trade should have had some continency plans in the works just in case.

The media and 'official'society' couldn't imagine that Trump would win, and when he did, it seems to me that the Canadian government acted in a partisan way, as if Trump was going to be impeached, or somehow be removed from office for being an outsider!

This is incredible. It's understandable that individuals could harbour such fantasies, but for that to happen in real life, the US would have to go through a constitutional crisis somewhere between Watergate and the Civil War for that to happen.

Now we understand that Obama was, at best, the faceplate of a thuggish administration that corrupted the IRS, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the intelligence services. They were selling influence, and I don't think we can lay it all off on the Clintons. It was Obama who politicized the DoJ by appointing Eric Holder.

In other words, for officials and top politicians to go out, on stage, and parade about as handmaids of the Democrats was diplomatic suicide. It put our real-life interests in the service of the boy PM's narcissism.

They went to trade meetings with the intent of allying with Mexico and forcing the Americans to back down! And in the meantime, Justi thought he'd compel Mexico to adopt 21st century Canadian sexual and environmental codes. If that isn't a model for disaster, what is?

These are negotiations that ought to take place out of the din of the crowd because trade agreements are virtual cases of litigation. If we had presented a willingness to solve the problem from the start, and stopped playing for the crowd, we'd be in a lot better place now.

The Liberal Party's performance on this would embarrass MacKenzie King and Lester Pearson. It's been a bunch of silly bravado, must sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I hope Andrew finds his legs in this, and begins actually rallying Canadians so that their interests become evident to the politicians. Maybe even him.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is good.

NAFTA uncertainty overshadows Liberal priorities

Trying to keep up with Donald Trump's NAFTA musings is rarely easy. This week was no exception.

After reports that the U.S. president could soon give the official warning that he intends to pull the United States out of the trade agreement, Trump spoke to The Wall Street Journal about the negotiation, saying: "We're moving along nicely," "There's no rush," "I'm leaving it a little flexible," "We have a chance of making a reasonable deal," "We've made a lot of headway."

He also said the benefits of a new NAFTA would pay for his proposed border wall with Mexico, while expressing understanding that it's tough for Mexico to negotiate during its upcoming election campaign.

Trump still repeated his threat to cancel the agreement if he can't get a better deal. But Canadian officials, including International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne, say they are seeing positive signals from the White House.

"To the extent that we hear positive comments and feedback that the United States wants to engage and be in solution mode, that's good news," Champagne told The House.

"What matters is to get a good deal for Canada, and how we do that, and at the speed that the other parties are ready to do it, I will respect it," he said.

They should be uncertain. It's this simple -- the Liberals charted an entirely unrealistic course with regard to Donald Trump and the trade consequences of his election. They miscalculated -- never mind why -- lots of governments miscalculate. If this is true, it's a good thing because they are recognizing something new.

They should be respected more if they climb off their high horse, say sorry to Mexico, and quit cutting bait on trade. Canada should defend the proposition that because we provide raw materials, it's unreasonable to expect us to have balanced trade with the USA. We buy American products made in China. Who's kidding who? And most of the money made in lumber and other such industries are internationally owned by Americans and Europeans.

In other words, they should recognize that it's time to fish. We should be thinking of what to do about lumber, and the auto pact, and that fact that we have energy, we are a friendly neighbour, we'll quit an antagonistic immigration policy, whatever ...

It means, if they're honest, they have to rethink all this carbon tax stuff and corporate tax rates, and all of that. It demands of them, in the end, a recasting of their electoral strategy.

My bet is they'll try to maintain the same course, and rely on public relations to smooth everything over. They'll quit sticking their tongues out at Trump.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting developments ...

Preparations, but no NAFTA plan B yet, says trade minister
Rachel Aiello, Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer

Published Sunday, January 14, 2018 7:00AM EST
OTTAWA -- With the next round of NAFTA talks approaching, and uncertainty about where the U.S. stands from one day to the next, Canada’s International Trade Minister said there’s no clear “plan B” if the trilateral deal gets torn up.

“It's not about a plan B, it's about (having) every eventuality mapped out,” Francois-Philippe Champagne told CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon.

He said Canadians should be assured that there is “the best team” of negotiators working on the potential revamp of the trade agreement.

“We’re looking at every eventuality that may happen… we’re working under all scenarios,” Champagne said, echoing Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s comments from earlier in the week, after senior Canadian officials signaled that there is an increasing chance U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing to pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement by using a clause within the deal which sets in motion a six-month withdrawal notice.

Following this a slate of Canadian ministers offered public reassurance that Canada would be ready for whatever comes from the U.S. administration as the talks near the sixth round.

“What you saw this week was renewed vigour in defending Canadian interests… It’s good to be firm, from time to time,” Champagne said.

Shortly after the potential U.S. pullout was floated, Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, offered a more hopeful view, indicating he would be open to extending the talks and was in “no rush.”

Champagne said he was encouraged by this.

The minister, in an interview airing Sunday, also downplayed reports that the progressive chapters Canada is pushing on things like gender, the economy, and labour are getting in the way of sealing the deal.

I thank the minister for being as frank as he has been. I expect that he knows as well as we do that only now are the politicians getting realistic.

The deputy ministers might be able to get them out of the jam.

The Mistress of Foreign Affairs has signalled back that she is pleased that there is no rush. It looks to me as if a new form of diplomacy is starting, one involving respect!

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Francois-Philippe Champagne is a strong Minister.
I think he understand the massive blow back on the Canadian Economy if NAFTA is simply canceled, certainly more so than his boss.

The fact that they are distancing themselves from the social engineering aspects that Canadian Negotiation team was rumoured to be demanding is at least a step in the right direction.

More importantly it gives me confidence that someone on the Canadian side actually understands what belongs in a trade agreement and what does not.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

( this columnist says the government itself needs a reboot )

The Trudeau government badly needs a reboot

By Susan Delacourt. Published on Jan 16, 2018 3:43pm

This time last year, the new U.S. President Donald Trump forced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press the reset button on his government.

Isn’t it time for the Trudeau government to give itself another shakeup? How about a new Speech from the Throne?

Maybe it isn’t all that surprising that Liberals are taking their sweet time getting around to their second act. In the more than two years since they were sworn into office, we’ve learned that it takes them quite a while to get things done: appointments, consultations, passing legislation and so on. That’s not a matter of opinion — it’s backed up by data.

Last month, for instance, the Trudeau government set a record for vacant appointments: 594 jobs either unfilled or occupied by someone still in the post after the expiry date.

Meanwhile, an analysis by Global News highlighted the snail’s pace of legislation under Trudeau — roughly half the output of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s last government over the same period of time (34 to 61.) Last fall was particularly unproductive, with fewer bills introduced than under any government going back to 2001, Global recently reported.

Trudeau, in his recent cross-country travels, said people should be looking at the quality of his government’s legislative record, not just quantity — the real-world impact of legislation passed by Parliament. “If people actually compared the impact of what we’ve done with what the previous government actually got done, people are really feeling the difference,” Trudeau said Tuesday in an interview with CBC Radio in Halifax.

“We’ve done really, really big things and we’ve done them in ways that respect Parliament [and with] a more independent Senate … Yes, perhaps [this may] pose certain challenges in terms of the pace of things through the House [of Commons] but the size of the things we’ve done have made a deep and lasting impact in the opportunities that Canadians and their families have.”

Maybe. This current session of Parliament is a long one — 775 days from the first Throne Speech to today — but it’s not unusually long. Again, some numbers: Harper’s first parliamentary session after winning his majority in 2011 lasted 834 days. The longest session of Parliament I could find in this or the past century belonged to Trudeau’s father. After he won the 1980 election, Trudeau Sr. kept Parliament in session for a whopping 1,325 days, waiting until 1983 to present a new Throne Speech.

open quote 761b1bBeyond numbers or new U.S. presidents, there is one very good reason to have a new Throne Speech now: the last one is starting to look seriously out of date.

Presumably, this Trudeau government isn’t aspiring to that record. As those who remember that era will recall, a lot of the political action in those years was extra-parliamentary — federal-provincial constitutional conferences leading up to the 1982 patriation of the Constitution. That kind of thing isn’t on the current Trudeau government’s agenda.

But beyond numbers or new U.S. presidents, there is one very good reason to have a new Throne Speech now: the last one is starting to look seriously out of date. Those promises that once looked sunny-ways shiny and new in 2015 have either been fulfilled — or displaced.

In the “done” list, we can check off the Throne Speech’s promises on the child tax benefit, enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan and a new health accord with the provinces. (That last promise didn’t exactly land as one accord, as it turned out, but the government did manage to make individual deals with all the provinces and territories; Manitoba, the final holdout, signed on at the end of last summer.)

Most of the other 2015 Throne Speech promises now look dated too, either because they’ve been abandoned (electoral reform) or because delivering them turned out be a source of ongoing negative news and headaches (the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women).

And of course, Trump’s presidency has since made parts of the 2015 speech look like they were written by someone wearing rose-coloured glasses. Consider these phrases, for instance:

“The Government will strengthen its relationship with allies, especially with our closest friend and partner, the United States … And to expand economic opportunities for all Canadians, the Government will negotiate beneficial trade agreements, and pursue other opportunities with emerging markets.”

Ah, memories.

No government wants to look old. But this government has a particular aversion to looking tired and aged, what with all its talk of generational change and connecting to young people and new Canadians.

The next Speech from the Throne will be read by a new face — Governor-General Julie Payette. If the government holds out until later this year, the speech may even be read in a new place — the Government Conference Centre that’s due to become the Senate’s temporary home sometime this year. Certainly those optics would help the two-year-old Trudeau government show that it’s still interested in looking new.

But a government starting to get a reputation for glacial progress might not want to wait until then. It’s time for a second act — and a new Throne Speech.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Susan Delacourt is a reliable Liberal spokesperson, as much as she is a reporter. She has some integrity and uses her position to bring things to light, but in this case, she is putting the best possible light on a depressing prospect.

This has never been a government of ideas or of vision. Rather, it is opportunistic. What it really believes, in my estimation, is "Social Justice" -- but most of that is a twisting of language to make profoundly unjust changes in social expectations, and back that up with the power of the state.

(I say "unjust" -- what I mean is that they force changes in existing practices in our society by replacing the old form of "Justice" with "Social Justice" ... one that gives the supposed victims to a "right" to a piece of 'atonement', often in the form of an unfair social advantage -- so the use of words becomes confusing. But change is painful for some, and those people who are forced to undergo it will feel it an injustice.)

But how much further can it go with climate "justice"? They are imposing a carbon tax. Or gender "justice"? The government's agencies are actively engaged in using the schools to 'deconstruct' masculinity, largely regarded as 'toxic' at the moment ...

They are already on the frontier here, way ahead of most of the world, doing things governments have never before tried to do.

We are in a process of being turned from free citizens of a state, with rights and the vote ... into a 'managed' population with benefits and where the vote doesn't affect anything. In a nutshell. The point is to understand that this opportunistic gang has already implemented everything they care about. Now they want to stay in power by hiding the truth. Trudeau's current Reputation Redemption Tour is illustrative. He's playing the tune that worked before, the brave stance in front of controlled crowds, where he apparently trashes some 'myth' about our culture ... and platitudes about Canada out your wazoo.

In the meantime, Donald Trump (and his new direction on trade policy) has changed everything. Do you increase corporate taxes now, for instance? What about jobs, in an environment where the US is looking for jobs to 're-patriate'? Ummm. What about imposing a carbon tax now that there's no prospect of the Americans doing it too?

That's what they are looking at, at least a year too late. They will do what they can do to stay in power and keep their deep agenda. Donald Trump will know exactly how to play this.

My prediction: they will capitulate, settling for face-saving stuff. They will lose to the degree that it will affect employment, and they will try to 'stimulate' job-creation to cover this up. (Those jobs usually disappear when the subsidy disappears.) You can make this picture as dire as you like, but the unavoidable truth is that this sets us up for failure. And if we wait for the democratic masses to wake up to it, it will be too late.

This is where leadership comes in. Getting the masses there a little earlier than they might have otherwise. It certainly doesn't mean endorsing stupidity by being silent.

We should grab the leg of the USA like a love-sick spaniel. We don't have to stand idly by when the people who represent us don't know what to do. They want balanced trade with us, then we have to figure out a way to live with that, and as far as I can see, it lies with processing resources in Canada. Or at least moving toward an economy where that is possible. We need transition time. I think a real deal-maker can work these things out. But balanced trade with us means we can only buy internationally what we get with the extra US dollars we have left after we have paid the Yanks. And that's the truth.

Go to Japan with Canadian dollars, and they will probably look at you like you're being funny.

At least we have to wake up, and get public ferment going.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Loonie Tumbles After Dovish Bank of Canada Hikes By 25bps, Warns Of NAFTA Uncertainty
by Tyler Durden
Wed, 01/17/2018 - 10:06

As expected by a broad majority of economists, the Bank of Canada just hiked its overnight rate by 25bps to 1.25%, the first hike by a G-7 central bank in 2018.

In raising the rate, the BoC said that "recent data have been strong, inflation is close to target, and the economy is operating roughly at capacity" however in a dovish twist the BOC added that "as uncertainty about the future of NAFTA is weighing increasingly on the outlook, the Bank has incorporated into its projection additional negative judgement on business investment and trade.

From the bank's forecasts:

In Canada, real GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.2 per cent in 2018 and 1.6 per cent in 2019, following an estimated 3.0 per cent in 2017. Growth is expected to remain above potential through the first quarter of 2018 and then slow to a rate close to potential for the rest of the projection horizon.


Could this have anything to do with the government's weakness and uncertainty on the trade issue?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:

In the meantime, Donald Trump (and his new direction on trade policy) has changed everything. Do you increase corporate taxes now, for instance? What about jobs, in an environment where the US is looking for jobs to 're-patriate'? Ummm. What about imposing a carbon tax now that there's no prospect of the Americans doing it too?

Even if credit isn't given to the US President (rightly or wrongly so) the US Economy at the moment is strong and the changes to the tax structure ultimately return billions of dollars to taxpayers on both corporate and individual levels.

While its easy to get lost in all the shithole this and 6' 3" that, the fact is that many of the obstructions to doing business in the US are starting to fall away. In conjunction with the tax cuts you have many US States with incentive programs to attract business and largely to attract business similar to what the bulk of Ontario and Quebec's manufacturing economy does.

Right now relying in a weak dollar and healthcare to maintain economic growth is all fine and good, but if the world views the CAD as a Petro Dollar we should keep in mind that crude was at 44 bucks in June and is at 64 bucks now and the CAD has rallied nearly 0.10 against the USD over that same period.

You would think there is a room of Economists in Ottawa at least musing about what happens if we return to a 2014 situation where the CAD is nearly at par with the USD even if interest rate increases can't balance out the increases to the cost of oil?

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wait-and-see stance on NAFTA best bet for Scheer and Tories
In the larger picture, the best-case scenario for the Conservatives and Andrew Scheer would be to ensure Justin Trudeau wears any concession Canada eventually makes at the NAFTA table, writes Chantal Hébert.
Fri., Jan. 19, 2018

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer did not receive a lot of media attention at home or abroad on the occasion of his maiden visit to Washington this week but he got the kind of coverage he and his party need more of over the next year.

The message Scheer took to Washington was that at the NAFTA negotiating table Canada speaks with one voice and he stuck to it even when that meant declining to answer questions that could have led him on a path more critical of Justin Trudeau’s government.

A debriefing news conference initially scheduled for Friday in Ottawa was cancelled due to illness. Inasmuch as it allowed Scheer to avoid an occasion to be taken off a constructive message track, the cancellation may have been a blessing in disguise.

With the NAFTA talks between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico about to resume in Montreal, discretion on the part of the official Opposition is the better part of valour.

Here are some reasons why:

A year in Donald Trump’s presidency, the White House’s NAFTA end game remains uncertain. As has been his fashion since his swearing-in, the president had managed over the course of the first weeks of what could be a make-or-break year for the tripartite trade [....]

The rest of the article is worth reading. I post it to take issue with it. The fact is that the Canadian side looks dreamy-eyed and foolish. What can violate a nation's sovereignty more than putting a gender requirement into a trade negotiation? Why are we linking our destiny with that of Mexico, the main perp?

I understand the attitude about speaking with one voice, but when that voice is that of a poseur who is using his moment in the spotlight to do a vanity turn, someone should be around to pop his bubble.

When we joined NAFTA, it was part of a three part program to cover our growing national debt. We (a) negotiated a free trade deal with the US, (b) imposed a large new non-progressive tax, the GST, and (c) cut government benefits with the Martin budget.

The Americans pulled us into NAFTA. We should have been angling to go back to the original Free Trade Agreement (FTA). We should be telling the US that they have a choice -- do we develop as part of a larger US-Canada economy, or do we start looking for customers and investors from Asian countries? We should be willing to take on a larger military burden, for instance. (This is where it's at, militarily speaking. We have the second largest land area of any nation on earth, with only 35 million people. As far as I can see, we can only put a couple of thousand boots on the ground in case of war. Can we keep a military force of 5000 people fighting over an extended period of time? I doubt it. And that's pathetic.)

We need to live under the shadow of American military power, but we don't need to be pathetic about it. That's just a reality. We should be reality-based, and be able to hold Justin to account. He shouldn't defend stupidity.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

( the New York times came north to look at Canada's rust belt , apparently Peterborough Ontario is a rust belt city ? everything seemed new and shiny last time I was there )

This City Once Made Much of What Canada Bought. But No More.


The Quaker Oats plant in Peterborough, Ontario. One of the larger and older manufacturing plants still in operation, the factory is an icon in the heart of in the city.CreditAaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

By Ian Austen
Jan. 21, 2018

PETERBOROUGH, Ontario — In his push to drastically change or kill the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump often casts the United States as a victim of a deal that benefits only Canada and Mexico.

But the idea that Canada has prospered at America’s expense is a tough sell in Peterborough, a city northeast of Toronto.

For most of Canada’s history, Peterborough manufactured much of what Canada bought or used, including chain saws, outboard motors, boats, refrigerators, alarm clocks, locks, oatmeal and electrical motors and generators. The city was so closely associated with an 80-acre General Electric complex in its heart that it became known “the Electric City.”

But no more. This year General Electric, which employed about 6,000 people here at its peak, will add its name to the long list of manufacturers that have left town. The shutdown, which the company attributes to a 60 percent drop in demand over four years for the factory’s products, will end the corporation’s 126-year history in Peterborough.


“This community has changed immensely from where we were back in the ’60s,” Mayor Daryl Bennett said.CreditAaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

G.E.’s closing, like that of other factories before it, has several causes, including a general weakness in the company’s power generation business and lingering problems with its financial subsidiary. But many people in this city of 82,000 see the end of G.E. in Peterborough as just the latest disappointment delivered by free trade.

Bill Corp, a 35-year G.E. veteran whose father and grandparents also worked for the company, will be the last president of the Unifor union local representing most of the workers at the plant. In a tidy house converted into a union hall, he repeatedly said he was not “a very political person.”

But Mr. Corp nevertheless contrasted the promises of prosperity made in 1989, when Canada signed a trade deal with the United States that became Nafta, with the pending G.E. shutdown and Peterborough’s unemployment rate, which spiked at 9.6 percent last summer, Canada’s highest at the time.

His views about Nafta — for which the latest round of talks begins in Montreal on Tuesday — echo those of labor leaders in declining industrial communities in the United States.

“They said it was going to be great,” said Mr. Corp, who looks younger than his 57 years. “If this is great, then maybe nothing would be better.”


The river in Peterborough. The city has had to reinvent itself amid the closing of many plants.CreditAaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

Peterborough isn’t an isolated example among industrial communities in Ontario. The Mowat Institute, a research organization focused on the province, calculates that between 2000 and 2011, Ontario as a whole lost about 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Those that remain are concentrated in food processing — Peterborough has both Quaker Oats and Minute Maid juice plants — and in production of cars and car parts, a sector that was never dominant in this city.

But Peterborough doesn’t fit the image of a down-at-the-heels Rust Belt town. It sits at the heart of a spectacular series of lakes that draw vacationers from urban centers like Toronto. A canal popular with recreational boaters winds through the city and raises boats 65 feet in a massive lift lock, an aquatic elevator that has become a local landmark. North of town, the campus of Trent University is widely considered one of Canada’s most important collections of mid-20th-century architecture.

Despite its industrial woes, Peterborough has been growing. Many of the newcomers are people at or near retirement age who have sold their houses in Toronto’s inflated real estate market and replaced them with much cheaper, and sometimes superior, homes here.

Yet old factory sites linger as landmarks. The Westclox clock factory, converted into condos and offices, still sits on a hill above the lift locks, though its clock tower no longer functions. The remains of the Outboard Marine Canada plant, where chain saws and Evinrude boat motors once moved along assembly lines, is now a celebrated museum devoted to canoes.

Mayor Daryl Bennett is not among those who blame Nafta for Peterborough’s industrial losses, and many economists share his view.


The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough is on the site of the former Outboard Marine plant.CreditAaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

“This community has changed immensely from where we were back in the ’60s,” said Mr. Bennett, a businessman whose holdings include a taxi service. “You could come out of high school here and go to any one of the factories in the city and have a very viable career, raise a family and maintain a good quality of life.”

The mayor said that the shift of jobs away from large factories to federal and provincial government offices, tourism, hospitals, the local university and college and smaller manufacturers had begun before the introduction of free trade in 1989. The city’s unemployment rate, he added, fluctuates, but is often near the national average. Last month it was 4.9 percent. But he, too, is dissatisfied with the current pact.

“Nafta is a very interesting agreement,” he said in his somewhat cramped City Hall office. “Mr. Trump is certainly not far-off on the need to make some changes to that agreement, quite frankly. But what those are is better left to the experts.”

At the union hall, Mr. Corp’s mood was more mourning than anger. G.E.’s last 350 unionized employees make electric motors and generators so large that electrical lines sometimes must be lifted if the products leave town on extra-heavy-duty trucks. Peterborough-made motors turn cruise ship propellers, pump oil, power factories and mines and generate electricity around the world. (G.E. has not disclosed which of its remaining factories will pick up Peterborough’s work.)

“The guy that runs a lathe or a guy that runs a C.N.C. machine or a guy that winds large motors — they’re skilled guys,” Mr. Corp said. “But where are they going to get a job as far as government jobs in town? I don’t mean that they don’t have the smarts to do it. But they’re in their mid-40s, mid-50s and they’ve been tradesmen their whole lives.”


The site of a demolished plant in Peterborough.CreditAaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

Those who do manage to find something, he added, are unlikely to find jobs that include G.E.’s generous benefits or match its pay rates, which start at about 30 Canadian dollars an hour.

Some of Peterborough’s industrial icons have survived. Before free trade, picture framers in Canada mostly turned to Peterboro Matboards. But as products from two large American mat board makers moved into the Canadian market after the trade deals, Peterboro failed to introduce new products or modernize its production. By 2001, the company was insolvent and had just seven employees. Then Alan Yaffe, a Toronto picture framer, stepped in, selling his business in downtown Toronto and mortgaging his house to buy the company.

Since then, Peterboro has become something of a trade success story. Mr. Yaffe invested in the plant and expanded the market for its products not just in the United States, but also in Australia and Europe, particularly Russia. The factory now employs 34 people, including two who have been with Peterboro for 50 years.

Still, Mr. Yaffe feels that Mexico’s low wages have sent too much work south. Whenever Peterboro Matboards advertises a job, about 100 people apply within a couple of days, he said.

“It’s totally discouraging, I feel so badly for them,” Mr. Yaffe said. “Peterborough’s got a good work force, there’s no question of that. There’s just not places for those people to work. It’s crazy what’s going on here

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Rebooting Canada's failed NAFTA strategy

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