Rivers isn't betting on NAFTA being in place for much longer.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 16th, 2018



A trade war between Canada and the USA is already here but according to at least one columnist help could be on the way. Apparently Kim Jung Un has offered his good offices to host peace talks between Canadian PM Trudeau and the US president. Kim was considered the evilest of evil until US president Donald Trump announced that he is a good guy after all, funny and strong, and someone who loves his starving oppressed people and is loved in turn.


Kim Jung Un with Donald Trump

Donald Trump wants to be known as a man of his word and true to his election promises. So he’s tearing up NAFTA through a series of small injuries – the ‘worst treaty yet’ along with the Paris Climate agreement and the Iran Nuclear deal. And Canada and Mexico are just chump change, small game in the foreground of his grander gun sights. Because America First is going to change the world – burying the notion of freer global trade big league, and bringing an end to globalization.

Trump and the latest incarnation of his inner cabinet are convinced that trade is only good when America exports more than it imports – the emperor’s new clothes. They’ve seen the equation used in standard economics text books and know that gross domestic product equals domestic consumption plus investment plus net exports. So all exports are good and all imports are bad. The Donald would know this too because he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in economics back in the ’60’s.

Of course the economics of trade is far more complicated than that, since, for example imported investment capital is far more valuable to an economy than imported consumer products. But complexities like that and philosophical theories like comparative advantage are the kinds of details that the bloody ‘elites’ like to toss around to show how smart they are. And by elites the Trumpeters mean anyone with more than a passing knowledge of anything besides… real estate deals. After all, it was the anti-elite crowd who elected him.


American President is known to chow down on junk food – McDonalds being a favourite.

Trump probably sees Canadian prime minster Trudeau as one of those elites. Though Trudeau, like Trump, hadn’t made it to Harvard his father did briefly. But Justin has that aura anyway, the stuff that elites are supposed to be made of – civility and culture, politeness and courtesy, and political diplomacy. He is so unlike the in-your-face, tweet-prone, American Big Mac – the US president. They do have drama in common – Trudeau as a teacher and Trump playing his best real life Willy Loman character from Arthur Miller’s classic, The Death of a Salesman.

Canada will not forfeit supply management for its dairy industry because Canadians know it is more sustainable than the American alternative of market distorting subsidies. The evidence is clear. We have stability and they have over-production and market chaos. Then they expect us to absorb their excess dairy products. Supply management is something which all Canadian political parties fully endorse, a policy initiated by Justin’s father almost half a century ago.


Canada has supply management in place which gives us price stability; the Americans have over-production and market chaos.

And it’s not like Trump cares a drop about the mainline dairy industry. He doesn’t even drink the stuff – he’s a raw milk guy. So why would he care about the conventional dairy folks wanting to dump their millions of gallons of subsidized milk in Canada, instead of their plowed fields? No, dairy is just a pretext for battle, and another nail in the NAFTA coffin.

If I were a betting man I’d put my money on NAFTA being relegated to the history books at least for rest of this generation. The new and substantial tariffs Trump is planning for the auto industry will be the coup de gras. Of course Canada’s foreign minister is hoping to seduce the US congressional types with her charm offensive, but the odds are not in her favour. The Republican Party is the party of Trump now, and he won’t be charmed.

This is a job for our own big guy, the PM. Some might think the emerging problem between the two men is lack of respect. Trump had said nice things about Trudeau in their earlier days, but then he also slobbered all over China’s leader Mr. Xi before slapping him with $50 billion dollars of tariffs. Despite their names both beginning with the letter T, they are different, One is old and messy the other young and fit, one opens the door for women to get catch up, the other just lusts over them.

And one is a true liberal while the other is neither that nor conservative – just a thug. Canada is a smaller economy and nation, and heavily dependent on the US for its trade and arguably its defence. So Trump’s ‘weak’ and ‘meek’ and ‘mild’ comments are likely more about the nation and not just its leader. One believes in climate change, the other believes in coal.

Justin as a boxer

Trudeau showing some real strength.

Maybe it’s time for Mr. Trudeau to take a lesson from North Korea’s Kim and show some real strength. Perhaps he should bring in the TV camera’s and show off a newly installed big red button on his office desk. Justin should then brag about how much bigger it is than the one in the oval office, and that pressing it would release a barrage of nuclear missiles aimed at the White House, Mar-a-Lago and Trump Towers everywhere. But he’d be happy to meet in Singapore for a nuclear summit.

Of course none of that would be true. Canada hasn’t had a nuclear missile on its soil since former PM Diefenbaker sent the Bomarc’s back stateside in the sixties. But then when has telling the truth ever been important to America’s liar-in-chief, Mr. Fake News south of the border?

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Kim’s Offer –   Trump and Trade –   Drama –  

Freeland goes to Washington –   Emperor’s New Clothes –  

Raw Milk

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

8 comments to Rivers isn’t betting on NAFTA being in place for much longer.

  • Ray Rivers

    Thank you all for your comments. And sorry Hans, I have a couple of degrees in economics and confess to having been wrong on at least a couple of occasions. I don’t know how valuable a degree is anyway given that our new premier doesn’t have a degree though he apparently showed up at a few educational venues. And former premier Mike Harris flunked out of Waterloo Lutheran in his first year. So perhaps being well educated is less important to Ontario voters than cutting taxes, the price of gas… and beer.

    • Hans

      I have an MBA, which required economics courses, and I think economics can be a valuable tool iff the limitations are understood; e.g.: in life there is no such thing as ceteris paribus; the total number of variables that affect economics can not possibly be known and they change constantly; in the long term everything changes, etc. Many economists clearly fail to understand the limitations.
      If voters were rational, Harris and Ford should never have been elected. What other employer would hire such an unqualified employee? But voters are gullible and naive – as you said, they voted for cheaper gasoline and beer.
      But I am grateful that we have “economists”, without whom we wouldn’t have all those great economist jokes :-).

  • Stephen White

    Trump champions the values and ideals of predominantly mid-Western, rural, poor white Americans many of whom have been bludgeoned economically by the combination of technology and cheaper foreign goods. You only have to drive through rust belt states in the northeast U.S. to see the carnage that has been left. However, while a case could be made for redressing the trade imbalance with other countries Canada isn’t really part of that problem. The bigger problems are clearly Mexico and China. Unfortunately, Trump’s inability to even acknowledge this fact doesn’t bode well for future trade agreements.

    While Chrystia Freeland deserves praise for the dignified and diplomatic way in which she has retained focus and concentrated on trying to reach a NAFTA agreement the Liberal government really needs to develop a new trade strategy with new partners. Omnibus trade agreements are passe. The notion that you can forge trading blocks with countries with dramatically lower wage rates and standards of living, as well as pathetically weak environmental, safety and human rights protections, and then actually come out ahead, is a pipe dream at best and bogus at worst.

    Canada should carefully pick its potential trade partners, and focus on dealing selectively with progressive liberal democratic countries that already support health, environmental and human rights protections instead of trying to impose these values upon them. Conservative federal Foreign Affairs critic Erin O’Toole has repeatedly suggested that we concentrate on forging enhanced trade agreements with countries like Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. I would add to that list Costa Rica, Uruguay, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. Countries like Mexico that are mired in corruption, where four provinces are effectively run by drug cartels, aren’t predisposed to listening to Trudeau’s mantra on human rights and gender equality. If they really gave a damn about those ideals they would have instituted meaningful changes a long time ago, and Trudeau isn’t about to shift the paradigm now.

  • So many times I’ve wished your columns would get wide distribution, and this one goes to the top of the list. Your analysis of the issues, and the characters, is not only precise, it enlightens and demands further thought and action.

    While reading this I was reminded of the book I am currently reading: Michael Hayden’s The Assault on Intelligence. Hayden characterizes Trump as a neo-Jacksonian, as in Andrew Jackson the ultra nationalist, racist, violence-is-the-answer early President. This may be a comparison some Americans can understand (I doubt many can because they are manifestly ignorant of their own history). I prefer to see him as the 21st Century Mussolini.

    All that aside, your columns are excellent and most certainly deserving of wide circulation.

  • Gary

    Wow, Ray. I wondered what was wrong with Trump. You have cleared away the mystery — he studied economics. I did not know that — it explains so much.

  • Susan L.

    Trump is like a seagull. He flies in, screeching like hell, craps all over everything, then flies away, leaving a big mess behind him.

  • Hans

    It’s difficult to believe that Trump actually earned a degree of any kind. Maybe someone bought it for him? In any case, “economist” is not a real profession and people who call themselves that are best known for being wrong; i.e., it’s a very poor qualification for leader of a country.