Thursday, February 16, 2017

Let's not throw Mexico under Trump's bus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin ("Joe") Trudeau recent visit to Donald Trump is being widely touted as a success for Canada, presumably on the grounds that Trump did not blow his top and wage all-out war on little Canada.
Contrary to what I perceive as the will of the Canadian people, Trudeau was willing to pussyfoot around contentious issues like Muslim bans and walls, Chinese and Israeli policies, etc, and contented himself with platitudes and bromides, and with generally not rocking the boat. Most commentators see this as a sensible and realistic approach, in much the same way as one usually does not take to task the parents of the spoilt kid yelling and playing up in a restaurant.
The contentious issue of NAFTA could not be avoided, however, and here again most Canadian media opinion seems to consist of a collective sigh of relief that Trump only intends to "tweak" the treaty as it affects Canada, although, as so often with Trump's pronouncements, what that actually means is anyone's guess.
What is becoming clear, though, is that the Trump trade team intends to hold completely separate negotiations with Canada and with Mexico, breaking down a tri-partite treaty into two sets of bilateral agreements. Given that Trump biggest problem with NAFTA is America's trade deficit with Mexico, most Canadian commentators see this as a good thing, and they also do not want to see our country caught up in the arguments about Mexican drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
Others are not as sanguine about it, arguing that having a  bad boy in the room will take the heat off Canada during trilateral talks would actually benefit Canada, from a diplomatic point of view.
What is not being talked about here at all, though, is the whole issue of whether Canada is willing to throw Mexico under the bus in order to placate Trump. Canadian and Mexican interests are not actually that different: both are middle powers that rely on US markets for much of their trade. And let's not forget that Canadian-Mexican trade has also blossomed in recent years.
For its part, Mexico is desperate for Canada not to abandon the tripartite formula. Both Mexican Economy Minister Ildelfonso Guajardo and President Enrique Peña Nieto have recently called pointedly for Canada to stay strong in dealing with Trump, and not to abandon Mexico in pursuing its own interests.
Now, I'm no expert in international trade and diplomacy, but I can't help thinking that leaving Mexico to fend for itself against Trump is a bad idea, and may come back to bite us one day. Surely, two amigos acting together will be stronger and less susceptible to Trump's divide-and-conquer techniques. And surely it is (or certainly used to be) part of Canada's MO to support and show solidarity with other countries that are being unfairly treated.

No comments: