OPINION: Canada Can’t Decide Who Plays Bad Cop In NAFTA Talks

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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It’s not looking good for Canada at the NAFTA talks. I’m not sure these negotiations have anything to do with NAFTA anymore — not when President Donald Trump snagged a bilateral trade deal with Mexico while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was preoccupied with addressing gender equality or apologizing because some 19th-century Canadian leader did not share his own 21st-century feminist sensibilities.

Canada has been left out in the cold with these talks — apparently largely because Trudeau refuses to move on supply management policies that protect the dairy industry.

Most Americans haven’t a clue what supply management is, and there is no better way to encourage readers to ignore your article than to include it your headline. But it’s actually an idea that originated with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in which farmers limit supply to ensure the price of the demand. If you have less milk in circulation, it’s going to cost more.

Trudeau, however, has moved beyond the Canadian sacred cow of late and his harping about protecting ‘cultural sovereignty,” something the United States has not even made significant demands of.

In order to attract some attention, the Canadian leader has been playing the “bad cop,” criticizing Trump for not playing fair with the trade rules while his foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, who is doing all the negotiating in Washington, has been playing the “good cop,” persistently underlining how trade talks are moving allowing just wonderfully and how progress is “good” and how keen a negotiator Trump’s trade representative Robert Lighthizer can be.

But Freeland must have forgotten her role this week because she participated in an outrageous panel discussion on Monday that was excessively anti-Trump even by Canadian standards.

Freeland has become the second bad cop. Or at least this was her anti-Trump Mr. Hyde to her NAFTA negotiator Dr. Jekyll.” The “Taking on the Tyrant” forum in which she appeared as a panelist linked Trump to a variety of bloody despots around the world and suggested that he was really no different Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Freeland clearly enjoyed the adulation of the crowd and constantly harped on how diverse and inclusive Canada was and how eager to accept immigration without questions. She urged Canadians to not take their democracy for granted.

It is true, Freeland was true to form and managed to castigate American democracy under Trump without once mentioning the president by name. She has done it before.

In a major speech on foreign affairs before Canada’s House of Commons in Ottawa, Freeland managed to paint the United States under trump as darkly isolationist and racially divisive — without the name Trump appearing in the text of her dissertation. At other times, she has linked populism to Nazism but has been careful not to say American populism.

But Monday night was different. Especially when Freeland expects to sit down again with the U.S. next week and try to salvage something from these NAFTA talks. What kind of credibility does she have when a few nights before she was basking in the in the afterglow of a collective Trump hate?

As Calgary Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel noted, a cabinet minister under the Conservative government of former Prime Minister  Stephen Harper would never have participated in a Tea Party repudiation of Barack Obama without the most onerous and condemning media reports. And the Harper government was not in the midst of sensitive and crucial trade talks with the U.S. as the Trudeau government is right now.

But Freeland has virtually gotten away with it. The forum was grossly under-reported, especially considering the mammoth political hyperbole it represented. Do these people really believe American under Trump is like Syria beneath al-Assad?

If Freeland does believe that, she shouldn’t be representing Canada at the negotiation table and should be taking a few lessons in American democracy.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.