Trump levels clear warning shot as NAFTA leaders gather in Canada

Donald Trump has delivered his most explicit threat to smash the North American Free Trade Agreement just as the continent's three leaders gather to discuss building new ties.

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has delivered his most explicit threat to smash the North American Free Trade Agreement just as the continent’s three leaders gather to discuss building new ties.

If elected president, the presumptive Republican nominee said Tuesday he would inform Mexico and Canada of his desire to immediately renegotiate a better deal for the U.S.

He said their refusal would prompt him to invoke the agreement’s Article 2205, which allows a party to withdraw on six months’ notice.

“They’re so used to having their own way,” Trump said of America’s neighbours.

“Not with Trump. They won’t have their own way … NAFTA was the worst trade deal in the history — it’s, like, the history — of this country.”

The warning came in an anti-globalization speech that solidified Trump’s position as the most protectionist Republican presidential candidate in generations.

He listed a series of complaints about American trade policy as he read a pre-written address titled, “Declaring American Economic Independence.”

It occurred on the eve of Wednesday’s Three Amigos summit in Ottawa where the NAFTA leaders plan to announce closer co-operation in several areas, against the headwinds of economic nationalism now blowing on different continents.

For Trump, that growing resistance to global integration is cause to celebrate.

He saluted Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. He even used a turn of phrase similar to one from anti-EU leader Nigel Farage, who taunted European colleagues Tuesday for mocking his Brexit vision: “You’re not laughing now, are you?”

In a similar sneer at the forces of global integration, Trump said he’d spent years complaining about trade with China: “Nobody listened. But they’re listening now.”

Trump’s two main complaints were about events shaped by the presidency of Bill Clinton, the spouse of his likely general-election opponent: NAFTA in 1993, and the lengthy negotiations that led to China entering the World Trade Organization in 2001.

He proposed seven remedies.

One is to withdraw from the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership plan. Another is to label China a currency manipulator and impose punitive tariffs on its products.

Redoing or rescinding NAFTA is another.

In his speech, Trump never mentioned Canada specifically. Even after the speech, his campaign issued talking points complaining about the trade practices of Mexico — but not of Canada.

Yet one trade lawyer in Toronto said the policies he espouses have clear implications for the northern neighbour three-quarters of Canadian exports go to the U.S.

“He is clearly the most protectionist presidential candidate, probably, since the 1920s,” Mark Warner said.

“Presidential powers are limited but a president with this kind of a trade agenda could easily make life difficult for trading partners by pushing presidential executive powers to the limit. The worst case for Canada is that he might push (Hillary) Clinton to be more protectionist in border states if the contest narrows.”

Nearly two dozen consecutive polls show him losing the popular vote to Clinton.

His comeback hopes appear to hinge on the anti-trade, anti-elite, anti-foreign sentiment of the likes that propelled Farage’s forces to a stunning win.

Trump has repeatedly stated his desire to redraw the electoral map.

As a case in point, he delivered his trade speech Tuesday in Pennsylvania — a state that hasn’t voted Republican in decades. He’d need that state and other northern, former industrial powerhouses like Michigan and Ohio, if he loses states with growing Latino populations like Florida, Virginia and Colorado.

Even if he’s elected, Warner said, a protectionist president would find himself in a complex fight.

He said Trump could seek to leave NAFTA, but would need Congress to snap tariffs back into place. Such a move would almost guarantee a lawsuit over the extent of presidential power, he said.

Warner said presidents do have the power to implement emergency actions without Congress, and can get the Department of Commerce and International Trade to ramp up trade-remedy cases.

Trump’s domestic opponents were saying far worse things about his speech.

They called it economically illiterate and hypocritical.

After all, they pointed to reports of Trump-branded clothes being made in Mexico, ties made in China, shirts made in Bangladesh, furniture made in Turkey and Germany, picture frames from India, and bar products from Slovenia.

This self-styled defender of workers has also testified in a court case about using illegal labour in the project to build the skyscraper that now houses his campaign headquarters.

Polish workers who were to be paid a few dollars an hour for demolition work in the 1980s complained about their supervisors withholding payment on the Trump Tower project.

Now the Trump of 2016 is campaigning against the wealthy international trade-championing elite.

“Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache,” he said.

“The era of economic surrender will finally be over … America will be independent once more.”

His opponents might not find themselves on the firmest ground if they question his consistency. When they first ran for president, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama endorsed a renegotiate-or-rescind approach to NAFTA.

On Tuesday, the White House was lauding the old agreement.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest did so while warning against making simple comparisons between the situation in North America and Europe — given that continent’s far more elaborate integration featuring open borders, free movement of labour, and a multinational currency.

“Countries in North America have pursued a different strategy, and one that has worked well for us,” he said.

“It is a strategy that has enhanced the economies of all of our countries, it’s enhanced the national security of all of our countries and it certainly has made North America the most successful continent in the world.”

Just Posted

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

The Red Deer U18AAA Braves hit the field this weekend for their first games of the Norwest League season. (Advocate File photo)
Red Deer’s U18AAA Braves ready to open season this weekend

It’s been more than a year since many Red Deer Minor Baseball… Continue reading

Traffic signal upgrades are planned for May 30 at the intersection of 67th Street and 52nd Avenue. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Traffic light repairs set for 49 Ave. and 51 St. over weekend

Drivers in Red Deer can expect delays at the intersection of 49… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Embrace the omni-present wonderfulness of corn

OK, this week I’m going to get a little corny. So what,… Continue reading

Most Read