Op-Eds

The Trump administration’s announcement of punitive tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum means we’re into a full-blown economic and political war with the Americans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tough statement Thursday afternoon that these tariffs are unacceptable and an affront to all Canadians is unprecedented for its direct and unrestrained criticism of an American president and his administration by any Canadian leader. In answering the press, Mr. Trudeau said that President Donald Trump’s actions represent a “turning point” in Canada-U.S. relations. The descent into full-scale economic warfare with the Americans had been evident for some time, notwithstanding overly optimistic comments by some observers dismissing Mr....
Now that some time has passed since the surprising Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Comeau case, it’s worth reflecting on some of the concepts enunciated in that judgment in upholding New Brunswick’s ban on cross-border beer imports. The central issue in that case, of course, was whether Section 121 of the Constitution was breached by the New Brunswick law under which Mr. Comeau was charged. Section 121 says: “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall . . . be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.” Note that the words are “shall . . be admitted free.” Section 121 doesn’t say “duty free” but “free” — full stop. That word would in a normal sense seem to mean admitted into the...
We got a blunt and sobering message last week from Steve Verheul, Canada's head NAFTA negotiator, telling us that negotiations with the Americans are bogged down and, apart from some agreement on peripheral things, there's absolutely no movement on the really tough issues. The fundamental problem, Mr. Verheul said, is that the United States isn't approaching the negotiations with the objective of concluding a balanced deal. The Trump administration's position is "America First" and "America Only," reflecting the tone of the President's bellicose inaugural address. As a result, the United States has tabled one-sided, intransigent positions, non-starters for Canada from day one. U.S. negotiators have no room to compromise because of...
Are we entering the post-NAFTA world? It certainly looks that way. The markets finally woke up to this on Wednesday, after sleepwalking for the past year, as bond yields and stock prices sank and the dollar took a hit on news that the Trump administration is preparing to pull the plug on the North American free-trade agreement, maybe even before the next round of negotiations slated for Montreal at the end of the month. Markets have a way of ignoring facts, or at least taking a rosy view in complex situations of government-to-government trade policy. In this case, the somnambulism was based on misplaced optimism that trade negotiators would be able to solve the NAFTA problems, blithely ignoring the significance of President Donald...
There was zero progress at the North American free-trade agreement renegotiations in Mexico this week. In fact, the talks took a decidedly backward step, with the United States refusing to move off its red-line positions, something that was predictable given the updated negotiating objectives released by the U.S. Trade Representative ahead of this week's session. This is an "America First" administration, after all, with no interest in accommodation, increasing the likelihood of eventual U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, an action that President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened, in spite of intensifying business and political pressures to the contrary. Given that gloomy prospect, let's look at how things could unfold over the...