TORONTO - Canada's Foreign Minister cuts short her diplomatic trip to Europe so that she could rush to Washington to resume NAFTA negotiations.
The Donald Trump had just announced a "take it or leave it" deadline for August 31, 2018. He had also announced, in a version of the English language whose authenticity only has mastered, that a new USA-Mexico trade agreement would replace the tri-lateral NAFTA. Canada, the real bad guy, according to Trump, would be left out as of September 1.
Except that it wouldn't. Not "legally". The NAFTA requires a sixmonth notification of intent to withdraw. No formal notices have been provided by any of the partners so far.
Moreover, the US Congress will need to ratify the new agreement for it to take effect. The mechanisms for that have yet to be triggered. In fact, skeptics in the USA have started to question whether the President had been given authority to negotiate a bi-lateral agreement.
CNN, a news outlet which does not inhabit the same universe as the Donald's "alternative reality”, was quick dismiss the big announcement. Yes, there had been movement, it conceded.
Mexico had agreed that it would bring employee salaries in the auto sector more in line with those in Canada and the USA. It also agreed that the North American content on autos would have to be 75% for vehicles to qualify for exemption from duties. Furthermore, 60% of steel and aluminum components would have to be sourced from North America.
However, as pointed out by the president of the Automobile Parts Manufacturers Association (APMA), Flavio Volpe, in an interview with the Corriere Canadese, last week, these conditions have been on the table for some time. They had essentially been accepted by all three partners and were awaiting the signature of the newly-elected President of Mexico.
Canadian members of the APMA operate 450 manufacturing plants in Mexico. These and the auto assembly plants directly employ 130.000 Canadians.
Raising salaries of workers in Mexico or requiring a higher percentage of components parts for auto assembly to be sourced from North America, will not necessarily impact Canadian producers negatively. So why the "rush"? This US President, a carnival barker, "the world revolves around me” narcissist, is a master of diversion.
He is entering a period of political hot waters. The primaries for mid-term elections to both houses of Congress have just begun. Republicans risk losing control; they need a perceived "victory" heading to the polls. The legitimacy of their president's victory 20 months ago is being severely questioned because of the Mueller investigation into Russian electoral interference in the USA.
His former mignons are "flipping" on him, and, he has become "an unindicted co-conspirator"- a criminal awaiting to be charged.
The untimely, though expected imminently, death of Senator John McCain re-enforced the public's perception of the Donald as a graceless, social baboon. McCain did not want him at his funeral.
The Donald couldn't bring himself to saying kind word in moment of mourning and refused to lower the flag over the White House as a gesture of respect for a war hero, until forced to do so. Some Americans still like this man. "He's putting money in may pocket" is the common refrain cited as a reason for continuing support.
Lesson learned? Prime-Minister Trudeau, now entering the final year of his own mandate, is well known for separating the possible from the inevitable. In 2016, immediately following the Trump victory, he announced Canada would be ready to renegotiate the NAFTA, before being asked.
Following the Trump announcement on Monday, he hastened to make three phone calls. First, to Trump; second to Chrystia Freeland; third to the Dairy Farmers, to remind them he is as committed as ever to standing up for the precious supply management system they value-even at the risk of collapsing the NAFTA(?).
There are about 12,000 of them, half of them in Quebec. Cameras ready?