There were obvious signs of relief in many quarters this week as a new NAFTA agreement was finally reached. At the insistence of the U.S. president, however, it will get a new name. Now it’s the USMCA, which CBC’s comedy show ’22 Minutes” suggested in a tweet sounded like—and should be sung like—the classic line from the Village People song “YMCA”.
Whether you support the current Liberal government or not, you had to feel more than a bit sorry for them as the whole negotiation process dragged on. The opposition was criticizing them for not accepting any old deal to salvage what trade arrangements they could. Now the criticism from many of them and other quarters seems to be the deal isn’t good enough.
The reality is no good deal was ever possible with the current U.S. administration. The best we could have hoped for was to prevent a complete collapse of the trade arrangement. And we got that. Fortunately, much of agreement is still the same—unfortunately, not all of it.
Most unsettling in the public announcements of the deal, were the president’s tone and comments in his Monday morning press conference; they were pretty chilling.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump said: “My biggest concession was making a deal. Every deal we have is a loser.” That and other statements in the past suggest the current aim of the U.S. government is to isolate the nation from all its friends in almost all ways.
Steel and aluminum tariffs remain in place for now. It’s unclear when or if they will be removed. The U.S. president said plainly that foreign steel was made intentionally inferior to dupe Americans, and it was all part of an international conspiracy to wipe out the U.S. steel industry and triple prices.
Trump’s wider stated view is the U.S. has been the hapless victim of any number of sinister international conspiracies. (Maybe S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the international villainous organization made famous in old James Bond movies, actually exists!) And, of course, he sees himself as the personal victim of massive conspiracies within the U.S.
He managed to criticize virtually every western country during that press conference, and he actually personally mocked many world leaders. So in fairness, we shouldn’t feel picked on. He derided virtually everyone who he perceived to be critical of him in any way, especially the U.S. Democratic party and previous administrations. “They’re loco,” he said. Adding he considered the general news media to be loco too—but that wasn’t surprising, he’s said that before.
There is little need for his country to trade he blustered on. Nobody has more energy or timber (or a couple of other resources) like the U.S. he said, creating more fodder for the fact checkers.
Typically U.S. presidents, with the notable wartime exception of president Roosevelt, only serve for two terms in office. It might be reassuring to think Trump’s presidency will eventually end, and the relationship with our old friend the U.S. can return to normal. But Trump has mused about getting that restriction removed. And while that would take support from others, it isn’t inconceivable. It has taken the support of around 50 million voters to put him in office and an inner circle of like-minded administration officials to get him this far. Even if he doesn’t remain past his best-before date, will he have irrevocably changed the course of that nation and its relationship with the Western World?
Getting along with America is likely to become even more trying in the future, not just in matters of trade. For now at least, the U.S. is in the process of abandoning all its friends.