Foreign Affairs in the New Year
For my first blog in 2018 I wanted to share my thoughts on two issues that I think will dominate political discussion over the early part of this new year. To begin with, however, I would like to wish you and your family a happy and prosperous new year. Like dawn in the early morning, the first few days of January represent a new beginning and untold possibilities for the year to come. I hope the year is a good one for you and for Canada.
First, the situation with North Korea will quickly receive additional attention because of the Winter Olympics being held in South Korea in February. This major international gathering of peace and friendly competition will take place in the shadow of one of the biggest threats to world peace. In the last year we have seen a provocative North Korea stage multiple tests of nuclear weaponry and increasingly reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles tests. Test firings included missile firings into the airspace around Japan. Most experts agree that North Korea now possesses nuclear weapons and the ability to launch a missile that could hit most of North America. What is most troubling is that these military weapons are in the hands of a dictator who is prepared to let his own people starve and suffer in his pursuit of weapons that will, in his mind, secure his hold on the country. Some of the rhetoric from the US President has not been helpful to the situation, but overall the U.S. has been able to get the Chinese to become more engaged in dealing with North Korea and that is a very positive step. Most of the limited economic activity and supply of oil to North Korea is due to China, so they hold the keys to dealing with the hermit kingdom. While we should not overstate the risk from North Korea, we should acknowledge the world has changed dramatically in the last year. The Conservatives have said that Canada should now sign on to the Ballistic Missile Defence system with the Americans. We cooperate with the US on all aspects of North American Defence except ballistic missiles. We should become complete partners and ensure an effective defence from this new threat. It would also show increased collaboration with the Americans at a time we need to show them we are their most important ally.
This leads to the other main issue that will dominate federal politics in 2018; the renegotiation of NAFTA. Two million jobs in Canada depend upon trade with the US and Mexico. Canada needs to export our products – from agricultural products to manufactured goods to maintain our high quality of life. We have always needed to be an exporting country. For example, since the 1960s over 80% of Canadian-made vehicles, including those made here in my area of Oshawa, were always made for sale in the U.S.
There is a real risk that President Trump will attempt to cancel NAFTA, but I think Congress will attempt to thwart this effort over the course of the year. The uncertainty created by the entire NAFTA renegotiation is bad for investment and job creation. While President Trump is the central cause for this uncertainty, the Trudeau government has unnecessarily exacerbated these risks countless times. First, Trudeau inserted Canada into the renegotiation of NAFTA before Trump was even sworn in as President. That was a very short-sighted move. Despite some good outreach by the government to Governors and other US decision makers, Trudeau’s own obsession with his image and domestic politics has set the NAFTA negotiations on a risky course. Despite the fact that the automotive sector was the driving force of US Free Trade and NAFTA, Trudeau did not even mention the auto sector as a priority for Canada. Instead, he launched his so-called “progressive agenda” and placed environmental, gender and indigenous issues as priorities for Canada. While these are all important issues they are are not normally part of a trade agreement and have caused friction with the Trump administration. Anyone who has paid minimal attention to the Trump Presidency would see that Trudeau’s agenda is intended to underscore political differences between the two leaders. This was a case of Trudeau putting his image and domestic politics ahead of job security and key sectors of our economy.
In the new year I will play an active role on these two issues in my role as foreign affairs critic, and the NAFTA issue is equally as important to many of the jobs in my riding of Durham. Let me know your thoughts on these issues and how the failure of NAFTA could impact your family.