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Hadani Ditmars

Blame Canada: No blood for milk or lumber

Trump is blaming Canada for 'outsmarting' US politicians on trade deals [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2017

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Blog: Trade deals are tricky things, and the only thing worse than being an enemy of the US is being a former ally, writes Hadani Ditmars.

First they came for the Mexicans, and we said nothing. Then they came for the Chinese, and we did not speak out. Then they came for us, and all I could think of was the Blame Canada song from the 1999 film South Park - which could well become Donald Trump’s new mantra: We must blame them and cause a fuss/Before somebody thinks of blaming us!

While we in Canada haven't been invaded by the US since 1812, and we're more accustomed to American demonisation of say, Middle Eastern nations whose despots it supports and then disposes of, it's been quite a fortnight for US aggression towards Canada.

In the current trade war with the US, Prime Minister Trudeau may do well to remember an old adage that would have served Saddam Hussein, Noriega, Taliban leaders and the Shah of Iran quite well: the only thing worse than being an enemy of the US is being a former ally.

In his recent tirades against Canada, Trump's language is instructive, betraying as it does the American penchant for alternative facts - not entirely a Trumpist invention, lest we forget the pre-invasion Colin Powell days of "Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction and I've seen the evidence."

In fact, Trump's nationalist, protectionist rhetoric sounds oddly like that of the state capitalist doctrines of those former allies-turned-enemies that once lead Egypt, Libya and Iraq before meeting untimely demises.

After Trump imposed a sudden 20 percent tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports to the US, he continued the attack the next day.

"People don't realise Canada's been very rough on the United States. Everyone thinks of Canada as being wonderful, and so do I. I love Canada," Trump said during a photo-op.

"But," he continued, revealing the sly tricksters we be, "they've outsmarted our politicians for many years."

Our alleged crime - no, it wasn't pulling babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals - rather, stealing the business of the American dairy industry.

"Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult," he tweeted, threatening, "We will not stand for this. Watch!"

Later he warned: "We're not gonna put up with it."

While no one likes to be in the crosshairs of angry US politicos, Trump's current attack on Canada is an old and familiar song for the 70-odd countries America has invaded since its inception. First, identify an "emerging market" trade rival with low-hanging resources, and take it over.

Although Canada is no banana republic, we do rely a lot on exporting 2x4. But in the "no blood for milk and timber" trenches, Trump's rhetoric is illogical.

Canada's cheese industry is undermining American
dairy farmers, according to US officials [Getty]

First of all the American dairy industry actually exports far more to Canada than vice-versa.

And the Canadian head of the United Steelworkers Union, Leo Gerrard, pointed out that, far from being harmed by Canadian softwood imports, the US softwood industry is working at almost 100 percent capacity, noting "prices are higher than they've been in 20 years. There is no injury".

Bizarrely, before signing an executive order to "investigate" steel imports, Trump said: "We can't let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and our farmers.

"And again, I want to also mention, included in there is lumber, timber and energy… this is another NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] disaster. And we're not going to let it continue onward."

While Trump has spoken in the past of "tweaking" NAFTA, dairy and timber are not even part of any existing NAFTA deal.

My Iraqi friends are well acquainted with American trade trickery, having lived through 12 years of crippling economic sanctions, imposed officially by the UN, but policed by the US, who simply side-stepped sanctions on oil by using silent partners.

Exxon Mobil remained prime users of Iraqi oil throughout the embargo and was also one of several US companies subpoenaed in the Oil for Food Scandal. Later, with current US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the helm, Exxon Mobil - described as a "state within a state" by the NY Times - almost caused an Iraqi-Kurdish war when Tillerson cut a side deal with the Kurds.

Of course we all know how well a little company called Halliburton did - making $40 billion in oil concessions off the back of an illegal invasion.

Every war has an economic basis, and Canada is currently retaliating against the US tariff on their softwood lumber by threatening to ban imports of US coal. Still, like pre-invasion Iraq, Canada has no weapons of mass destruction and Trudeau's appeal as a weapon of mass seduction is waning, as Canadians tire of him backing away from a bully.

But hey, Canada's biggest trading partner, this just in: you've already won the war.

Our streets are full of your chain stores, our supermarket shelves stocked with your products, our airwaves full of your popular songs. You don't seem to mind getting our cheap oil via controversial pipelines and you have your eye on our water, the new oil.

Ironically, when former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney - who also introduced Bill C 156 that would have allowed export of Canadian water to the US by tanker and small-scale land diversion - first introduced the NAFTA free trade agreement to Canadians in the late 1980s, it was opposed by the opposition Liberals and NDP, as well as by leading Canadian artists such as KD Lang, who feared it would diminish Canadian sovereignty.

We may not go in so much for armed resistance, but we Canadians, like Iraqis, still have our poets and a penchant for anti-American ironies - they can't take that away.

What would our great prophetic bard Leonard Cohen (why don't you come on back to the war...?), who had the grace to die on the eve of Trump's election, have made of it all?

While blaming Canada may win the hearts and minds of Wisconsin dairy farmers, when it comes to tricky trade deals with the US, we may be wise to heed the words of Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef, whose seminal 1995 poem America America still resonates.


let us exchange your gifts….

Take the heroin syringe under the tree
and give us vaccines.
Take your blueprints for model penitentiaries
and give us village homes.
Take the books of your missionaries
and give us paper for poems to defame you.
Take what you do not have
and give us what we have.
Take the stripes of your flag
and give us the stars.

Take the Afghani Mujahideen beard

and give us Walt Whitman’s beard filled with butterflies.

Take Saddam Hussein
 and give us Abraham Lincoln

or give us no-one.

Follow Hadani Ditmars on Twitter: @HadaniDitmars



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