Trudeau tries to quell trouble in Canada, admits erosion of trust

Promoted as a new generation progressive Prime Minister who championed openness and transparency , Justin Trudeau has been under fire as two of his Ministers have resigned after allegations of Government pressure over whether a Canadian company was to be prosecuted.

Trudeau has tried to quell the growing disquiet, saying he has done nothing wrong, but concedes that there has been an erosion of trust.

Last Tuesday (RNZ):  What’s going on with Justin Trudeau and Canada?

A second minister in Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has resigned, citing accusations that Trudeau and his aides tried to influence a bribery case involving a Canadian company.

Wednesday (RNZ): Trudeau SNC-Lavalin crisis grows as minister resigns

One of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s top ministers has quit saying she has lost confidence in the government’s handling of a corruption inquiry.

Treasury Board President Jane Philpott said: “I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities, constitutional obligations.”

The cabinet minister announced her decision to step down on Monday, posting her resignation letter detailing her “serious concerns” with “evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney-General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin”.

“There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them”.

Mr Trudeau said he was disappointed by the resignation, but understood it. He has denied political meddling to shield engineering firm SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial.

Friday (1 News):  Justin Trudeau maintains he didn’t apply inappropriate pressure on Canada’s former Justice Minister

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that an “erosion of trust” and “lack of communication” with his former justice minister led her to resign and accuse him of applying inappropriate pressure in a corruption prosecution — a dispute that has shaken his government.

But the prime minister made no apologies as he discussed the issue at a nationally televised news conference.

Former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould told a parliamentary committee last week that Trudeau and senior officials tried to pressure her into instructing prosecutors to avoid criminal prosecution of Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and instead require it to pay fines for alleged bribery in Libya.

Trudeau said Wilson-Raybould did not come to him to express her concerns about inappropriate pressure and said he wishes she had. He said situations were “experienced differently and I regret that.”

“I am obviously reflecting on lessons learned. There are things we have to reflect on and understand and do better next time.”

Wilson-Raybould was demoted from her role as attorney general and named veterans affairs minister in January as part of a Cabinet shuffle. She resigned weeks later.

Wilson-Raybould has said she believes she was demoted for failure to give in to the pressure.

It’s unusual for this much coverage in New Zealand of politics in Canada.

 

Rahaf Mohammed fleeing gender oppression in Saudi Arabia

A lot of media attention is being given to teenager Rahaf Mohammend al-Qunun being given asylum in Canada after fleeing her family and gender oppression in Saudi Arabia.

Mercury – Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun granted asylum in Canada

Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun has been granted asylum in Canada after she fled her family fearing her father would kill her for renouncing Islam.

NDTV – Being In Canada “Worth The Risk”: Teen Who Fled Saudi, Fearing For Life

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun plans to pursue an education, get a job and “live a normal life” in Canada – things she said she could not do in her home of Saudi Arabia, which she fled fearing for her life, she told Canadian media on Monday.

Being in Canada is “a very good feeling,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation two days after arriving in Toronto from Bangkok.

“It’s something that is worth the risk I took.”

Qunun grabbed international attention last week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies abusing her. Qunun refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok to try to take her back to Saudi Arabia.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees granted her refugee status, and Canada agreed to take her in.

Qunun’s case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” in order to travel, something rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

In her CBC interview, Qunun said: “I felt that I could not achieve my dreams that I wanted as long as I was still living in Saudi Arabia.”

Having come to Canada, “I felt that I was reborn, especially when I felt the love and the welcome,” she said.

In her new home, “I will try things I haven’t tried. I will learn things I didn’t learn. I will explore life. … I will have a job and live a normal life.”

This is quite an abnormal event in her life, but moving to Canada should at least allow her to make her own choices.

Statement by Rahaf Mohammed:

Guardian – Rahaf al-Qunun: ‘I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free’

Speaking in her first interview after being given asylum in Canada, and landing in Toronto on Saturday, Qunun, told the ABC Australia her case might be the “agent for change” in Saudi Arabia, a country where women are denied basic freedoms and are not allowed to work, marry and travel without the permission of a male guardian.

“I think that the number of women fleeing from the Saudi administration and abuse will increase, especially since there is no system to stop them,” said Qunun. “I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free.”

The 18-year-old added: “I hope my story prompts a change to the laws, especially as it’s been exposed to the world.”

“I wanted to be free from oppression and depression,” she told the ABC. “I wanted to be independent. I wouldn’t have been able to marry the person I wanted. I couldn’t get a job without permission.”

Qunun had originally applied for asylum in Australia but confirmed it was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that chose Canada because it processed her application more quickly. “This wasn’t my choice, it was the UN’s,” she said. “All I wanted was for a country to protect me. So, my choice was just for any country to protect me.”

In Saudi Arabia, the government-backed National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) also released a statement on Monday accusing several foreign countries of inciting “Saudi female delinquents to rebel against the values of their families and push them out of the country and seek to receive them under the pretext of granting them asylum.”

‘The values of their families’ and laws of the country in Saudi Arabia are quite oppressive towards females.

On their own the actions of Rahaf Mohammend (different versions of her name are given in different reports) may not change much in Saudi Arabia, but it may contribute to change there eventually. On a personal level it is a huge and brave decision.

But “I would like to start living a private normal life” and “Today and for years to come, I will work in support of freedom for women around the world” may be difficult to achieve side by side.

 

 

NZ finish 3rd at U-17 Women’s World Cup (football)

A very good result in the U17 Women’s Football World Cup, with New Zealand beating Canada to finish 3rd. They only lost once, to Spain in the semi-final.

US-Mexico-Canada trade deal agreed

NAFTA is out, and a replacement North American trade deal USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) has just been agreed to.

Financial Post: Revamped NAFTA deal, renamed USMCA, will ‘rebalance’ North America trade after Canada reaches 11th hour agreement

Canada and the U.S. ended weeks of intense bargaining Sunday with a last-minute trade deal that gives American farmers major new access to the dairy market here, but preserves a dispute-resolution system the United States wanted killed.

The deal capped a frantic weekend of negotiations and includes several provisions to “rebalance” the North American trading relationship, a Trump administration official said in a conference call shortly before midnight.

It is to be renamed USMCA – United States Mexico Canada Agreement – after President Donald Trump said the name NAFTA had “bad connotations.”

“This is going to be one of the most important trade agreements we’ve ever had,” said another American official on the background-briefing call. “We think this is a fantastic agreement for the United States, but also for Mexico and for Canada.”

The officials highlighted in particular that the U.S. had won a “substantial” increase in access to the Canadian dairy market, and that Canada had agreed to end the “class-seven” milk program that undercut American sales of a special dried-milk product.

That concession is a “big win for American farmers,” one official said. “We’ve got a great result for dairy farmers, which was one of the president’s key objectives in these negotiations.”

But Canada appeared to score a significant victory, as well, with the U.S. agreeing to keep intact the chapter-19 mechanism for resolving disputes over anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, which American negotiators felt undermined the autonomy of their courts.

The U.S. has also agreed to provide an “accommodation” to protect Canada’s auto industry in case the States decides to impose tariffs on auto imports, while Canada consented to extend the patent protection for an important class of prescription drugs – called biologics – from eight to 10 years, the officials said.

Reuters Factbox: Details of the new North America free trade deal

A number of the things negotiated sound similar to what was included in and disputed in the  Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump pulled the US out of.

 

 

Mixed trade deal and financial news

It is difficult to predict what the longer term effects of all this might be.

Whether trade deals or agreements can be reached between the US and Canada and also with China, and also with the EU, will make a difference. In the meantime, the trade wars over tariffs with US subsidies to compensate will continue to disrupt markets.

Preliminary US-Mexico trade deal, Canada uncertain

The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary trade agreement designed to replace NAFTA, but there is uncertainty over where this puts Canada, who were also a part of NAFTA.

Fox (via Christian Whiton, whowas a senior advisor in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations): Trump replaces NAFTA and triumphs — New trade deal with Mexico is YUGE win for both countries

President Trump won a major victory on trade on Monday, supplanting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and replacing it with something far more beneficial. The new deal will help American workers and manufacturers. It’s also a win for Mexico.

One of the most fundamental parts of Trump’s campaign for president was his promise to change America’s deeply flawed trade arrangements.

Second only to the booming economy, Monday’s announcement of a deal with Mexico is the most visible manifestation of Trump’s fulfilment of his campaign promises.

This victory will lead to others.  The leftwing government of Canada, the other member of NAFTA, had refused to negotiate seriously, perhaps believing their friends in the progressive commentariat predicting Trump’s demise.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, spent most of her time on visits to the U.S. lobbying governors and congressmen rather than talking seriously to our trade negotiators.  Her boss, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, even though it was a good idea to antagonize Trump at his failed G7 summit in June.

Canada must now return, hat in hand, for a deal.  If not, Trump will advance the deal with Mexico and leave Canada behind.

The European Union and China will also be greatly concerned about the Mexico deal—and more likely to negotiate seriously.

I’m not sure why the European Union and China will be concerned by this.

The deal with Mexico and Canada’s likely about-face puts pressure on Europe to level the playing field for trade or face higher tariffs.

The same factors apply to China, which is dependent on selling goods to the USA and stealing our companies’ intellectual property.

Trump has utterly flipped the script with China, which our elite effectively told us would supplant us economically and strategically, and with which we had to accept unfair trade factors. Now, China is reeling and American is ascendant. Those who bet on China over the USA chose poorly.

I’m not sure that repairing relations with Mexico and reaching a preliminary trade agreement with them will have that much impact.

New York Times has less of a cheerleader report: Preliminary Nafta Deal Reached Between U.S. and Mexico

The United States and Mexico have reached agreement to revise key portions of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, a crucial step toward revamping a trade pact that has appeared on the brink of collapse during the past year of negotiations.

The agreement with Mexico gives Mr. Trump a significant win in a trade war he has started with countries around the globe but it falls far short of actually revising Nafta. The preliminary agreement still excludes Canada, which has been absent from talks held in Washington in recent weeks.

“They used to call it Nafta,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to call it the United States Mexico Trade Agreement,” adding that the term Nafta had “a bad connotation” for the United States, which he said had been taken advantage of by the trade deal.

Typically odd comments from Trump. NAFTA was a three country agreement, this is a two party agreement.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Mr. Nieto said that he had also spoken to Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, and that he was working toward a three-way agreement with the United States and Canada by the end of the week.

“I expressed the importance of his reinstatement in the process,” Mr. Peña Nieto said in Spanish about Mr. Trudeau, “in order to conclude a trilateral negotiation this week.”

Odd also that this has been announced before agreement has been reached with Canada. Their inclusion may be some time away.

Mr. Trump, however, seemed to hedge the possibility, saying “we’ll see if Canada can be part” of any deal, and that separate negotiations would start soon.

Mr. Trump said that he would be calling Mr. Trudeau “very soon” but then immediately groused that the country issued 300 percent tariffs on American dairy products. The president suggested that the United States might add tariffs to Canadian car imports in response, reiterating a threat he has used frequently to push trade partners to the negotiation table.

While Canada has not been a party to recent discussions, the potential for a two-country deal appears highly unlikely, given opposition by Mexico, American lawmakers and North American industries whose supply chains rely on all three countries.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s threats against Canada could prove to be a negotiating tactic.

On Monday, Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said that Canada is “encouraged” by progress between Mexico and the United States but that “we will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class.”

On Friday, Ms. Freeland said that Canada would be “happy” to rejoin the talks once the United States and Mexico had made progress on their specific issues. “Once the bilateral issues get resolved, Canada will be joining the talks to work on both bilateral issues and our trilateral issues,” Ms. Freeland said.

This sounds like an odd way to work towards a three country trade agreement.

Both the Mexicans and Americans have been eager to reach a fully revised Nafta deal by the end of August, a date that would give the Trump administration enough time to notify Congress that a deal had been finalized and still have that deal be signed by the outgoing Mexican administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. That goal now looks doubtful, given Canada’s recent absence from the negotiating table.

Still, progress in the negotiations with Mexico will come as a relief to American businesses that depend on trade agreements and have been shaken by Mr. Trump’s confrontational approach to America’s biggest trading partners.

So this looks like a promising step, but it hardly looks likely to lead to a world trade revolution.

Canada legalises recreational cannabis

Canada’s Parliament has just passed a law that will legalise the use of recreational cannabis with a clear majority via a 52-29 vote in the Senate.

CBC: Senate passes pot bill, paving way for legal cannabis in 8 to 12 weeks

Senators have voted to pass the federal government’s bill legalizing recreational marijuana by a vote of 52-29, with two abstentions, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight to 12 weeks.

“I’m feeling just great,” said Sen. Tony Dean, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “We’ve just witnessed a historic vote for Canada. The end of 90 years of prohibition. Transformative social policy, I think. A brave move on the part of the government.”

Dean said he thought the Senate functioned well throughout the process and he was proud of the work the Red Chamber did.

“Now we can start to tackle some of the harms of cannabis. We can start to be proactive in public education. We’ll see the end of criminalization and we can start addressing Canada’s $7-billion illegal market. These are good things for Canada.”

Initially, the government had planned for the bill to be passed by both houses of Parliament in time for retail sales to begin by July 1. That timeline was pushed back after the Senate requested more time to review the bill.

Now that the bill has passed, it’s up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to choose the actual date when the legalization of recreational marijuana becomes law of the land. Bill C-45 comes with a provisional buffer period of eight to 12 weeks to give provinces time to prepare for sales of recreational marijuana.

So it will take 2-3 months to get organised and for the law to come into effect, and Canadians have been warned that using cannabis until then will remain illegal, but it’s hard to see it being strictly policed – Canadians can’t light up yet, justice minister warns after ‘historic’ bill to legalize pot passes.

This may improve Canadian tourism, especially from south of their border.

I expect that many in New Zealand will take a keen interest on how the transition works and how the legalising of recreational cannabis works out in Canada.

We are going to have a referendum on recreational cannabis use before or at the next election.

It is widely accepted that current cannabis laws are working very poorly here.

Post G7 bickering

Reuters: U.S.-Canada spat escalates, Europeans criticize Trump’s G7 move

The United States and Canada swung sharply toward a diplomatic and trade crisis on Sunday as top White House advisers lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a day after U.S. President Trump called him “very dishonest and weak.”

The spat drew in Germany and France, who sharply criticized Trump’s decision to abruptly withdraw his support for a Group of Seven communique hammered out at a Canadian summit on Saturday, accusing him of destroying trust and acting inconsistently.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland responded to the White House comments by saying that Canada will retaliate to U.S. tariffs in a measured and reciprocal way and that Canada will always be willing to talk.

“Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks … and we refrain particularly from ad hominem attacks when it comes from a close ally,” Freeland told reporters in Quebec City on Sunday.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow accused Trudeau of betraying Trump with “polarizing” statements on trade policy that risked making the U.S. leader look weak ahead of a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Hours after Trump withdrew his support for the joint statement and attacked Trudeau, Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro drove the message home on Sunday morning news shows in an extraordinary assault on a close U.S. ally and neighbor.

“(Trudeau) really kind of stabbed us in the back,” Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council who had accompanied Trump to the summit of wealthy nations on Saturday, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump seems to have stabbed Trudeau in his front.

Navarro told “Fox News Sunday”: “There is a special place in hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door and that’s what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference, that’s what weak dishonest Justin Trudeau did.”

Some will see a lot of irony in “bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump”.

Trump seems to be increasing division between the US and the rest of the countries in G7, but prefers to deal with Russia.

Reuters: Russia’s Putin would be ready to host G7 in Moscow

Russia did not choose to leave the G7 and would be happy to host its members in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday when asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Russia should have been at its latest meeting.

Interesting times.

Trade confrontation looking likely at G7

The trade war escalation by Donald Trump may make for a testy G7 meeting in Canada.

Reuters: Trump sticks with hard line on trade as showdown looms at G7

U.S. President Donald Trump is not backing down from the tough line he has taken on trade, the White House’s top economic adviser said on Wednesday, setting the stage for a showdown with top allies at this week’s G7 summit in Canada.

The meeting on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec, will be the first chance G7 leaders have had to confront Trump in person since U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union were imposed last week.

That move unleashed fury in the Group of Seven industrialized nations and prompted quick retaliation from Canada and Mexico and a promise from the EU to do so as well, unnerving investors who fear a trade war that could derail the global economy.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the summit host, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, who will also attend, are among those to sharply criticize the U.S. tariffs as unjustified and punitive.

“There are disagreements. He’s sticking to his guns. And he’s going to talk to them,” Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters in Washington.

A French presidency official said that while G7 members would raise their unhappiness over the tariffs with Trump, they would not deliver an ultimatum that he drop them because the summit “isn’t the place where you negotiate things like that.”

The official, speaking to reporters after Macron met Trudeau for talks in Ottawa on Wednesday, said the six non-U.S. G7 nations were united on the main topics to be discussed. The G7 groups Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany. The EU also attends.

Trump will have to more than snipe from Twitter at the meeting. Fronting up on trade issues he has stirred up will be a test of his presidential and negotiating skills. It will be somewhat more challenging than social media posturing.

Trade wars on again in response to Trump’s interventionism

It’;s hard to keep up with Donald Trump’s varying positions on a number of issues, but it looks like trade wards are back on after he imposed tariffs in steel and aluminium imports.It’s too soon to tell what this may escalate into, but the signs look ominous.

Reuters: U.S. isolated at G7 meeting as tariffs prompt retaliation

U.S. President Donald Trump told Canada and the European Union on Friday to do more to bring down their trade surpluses, a day after hitting them and Mexico with import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump castigated Canada, a top U.S. trade partner and ally, in a tweet on Friday morning, saying it had treated U.S. farmers “very poorly for a very long period of time.”

“Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us,” he wrote.

Trump also told French President Emmanuel Macron of the need to “rebalance trade with Europe,” the White House said.

The strong words followed swift responses to the tariffs by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which all plan to retaliate with levies on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, including orange juice, whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

ODT: Trade war repercussions likely

By later today,  or early tomorrow, it will be known the extent to which Europe, Canada and Mexico will go to counter the United States’ tariffs.

Canada and Mexico have made early moves but there are suggestions more barriers will be put in place for US exports.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally imposed sweeping tariffs on  steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, and its Nafta trading partners Canada and Mexico.

European commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker is promising to have retaliatory measures in place. In a furious address to a conference, Mr Juncker was threatening like for like, enough to make free-trade countries like New Zealand shudder.

The move is likely to have an immediate impact on global trade in steel and aluminium, particularly between the US and Canada, the largest supplier of imported steel to the US.

A meeting of the Group of Seven, in Canada, was taken by surprise by the announcement. Concern about Mr Trump’s hardening approach to trade dominated the discussion panel as top policy makers from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada gathered in the alpine village of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

There is growing concern trade wars may turn into real wars — particularly with the ongoing tit-for-tat squabble between China and the US.

On Tuesday, the White House pledged to slap an additional 25% tariff on a long list of Chinese products, including metals. Within hours Beijing retaliated with the promise to lift levies on $US50 billion worth of US imports by 25%. The Chinese list includes soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft. In response, Mr Trump threatened an additional $US100 billion in tariffs against China.

Global supply chains are at risk from the actions being initiated by Mr Trump and, because of his powerful position and erratic behaviour, no-one knows for sure how this will play out.

Mr Trump’s posturing is damaging to not only global trade. He is facing a backlash from some of his Republican allies, who are now worrying about surviving midterm elections.

The bigger fear over the current conflict is how escalating retaliatory tariffs may undermine institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, which have underpinned the world trading system since the aftermath of World War 2 and have prevented the outbreak of major trade wars.

Reuters:

Trump’s tariffs on Washington’s closest allies also drew condemnation at home from Republican lawmakers and the country’s main business lobbying group and sent a chill through financial markets.

The US markets keep bouncing around:

This year they have been as erratic as Trump, which is no coincidence.

While steel and aluminium tariffs may help protect some US industries they are likely to raise prices on many products that use steel and aluminium.

These particular tariffs aren’t likely to impact greatly on New Zealand, but if it escalates into a wider trade war then we are likely to get tossed around in the storm.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to prop up some big business friends: Trump orders Energy Department to help ailing coal, nuclear plants

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take emergency steps to keep at-risk coal and nuclear plants running, the White House announced.

Under the directive, Perry would require grid operators to buy electricity from ailing nuclear and coal-fired power plants to keep them from being shuttered.

Trump is an erratic interventionist.