You had to watch it on television to believe it. A Canadian prime minister was standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium in New York City Wednesday giving a commencement address to students at a New York University.
New York is in Canada right?
Well, maybe it is to Trudeau as he negotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Mexico. Maybe, he thinks if he can get U.S. students on his side that will help.
The truth is the North American Free Trade Agreement is in trouble. And Trudeau’s address in New York City had more to do with his public global image than with winning over support for the deal.
“When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke before thousands of students assembled for convocation at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, he did his best to inspire. But there’s a shadow hanging over the PM’s 16th official trip to the United States: the future of NAFTA,” writes Catherine Cullen of CBC News.
“The clock is about to run out on an unofficial NAFTA deadline, smack in the middle of Trudeau’s three-day U.S. visit. Congress has told American negotiators it needs a signed NAFTA agreement by May 17; otherwise it won’t be able to pass the deal during the current sitting.”
Well, it’s not going to happen.
If you listen to the news on CNN or MSNBC or any other U.S. network for that matter, the news is about the impending meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.
The U.S. networks are more worried about whether that meeting will accomplish anything than whether NAFTA talks will succeed.
And where’s NAFTA’s Canadian wonder woman, Chrystia Freeland?
No sign of her.
Looks like Trudeau has just about given up on Freeland negotiating a deal. After all, when Freeland first jumped into her role, the first order of business was to get gender and indigenous rights into the free trade talks. That drew a lot of laughs from the U.S. and Mexico and went absolutely nowhere.
So here we are near deadline day for an agreement and no agreement in sight.
Trump and Trudeau did discuss NAFTA in a phone call Monday. Yet in an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington the same day, Trump’s own commerce secretary responded in the negative when asked whether any major issues had been resolved lately.
“I don’t believe that any of the big hot topics (were),” Wilbur Ross said.
The Global News story talked about negotiations surrounding dairy products and prescription drugs, but there are a whole lot more stumbling blocks getting in the way of getting a new NAFTA deal signed.
“There are a handful of unresolved issues. I’m just not,” Congressional leader Paul Ryan said, before cutting himself off, saying he didn’t want to make news.
Maybe the CBC’s Cullen summed it up best: “Trudeau undoubtedly will continue to sing the praises of open trade and the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship during this trip. He’ll meet again with business leaders and regional politicians to enlist their help in pushing for a renegotiated NAFTA. By actively pursuing that strategy as the clock runs out, Trudeau might blunt some of the criticism he can expect if he fails to land a deal this year. But the question remains whether he can offer anything more concrete than words at this point.”
Maybe, that’s why Trudeau was standing on the grounds of Yankee Stadium trying to make his impossible dream come true. Successful NAFTA negotiations could form a pillar in Trudeau’s 2019 re-election campaign. Unfortunately, for him that is, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen. Freeland couldn’t get it done; Trudeau won’t get it done. The man who will end it all is President Trump. And he won’t end it with his signature. He’ll end it by doing nothing….absolutely nothing.