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Everyday Canadians would do well to opt-out of getting too emotional over U.S. President Donald Trump’s NAFTA shenanigans as of late.
Note the careful, measured responses of Canadian officials to the rekindling of a 35 year-old trade dispute that’s become that Gino Vanelli song (‘I Just Wanna Stop’) that just won’t go away — a slow-to-heal wound that barely has time to scab over before it bleeds anew.
Five times this has happened since 1982. Each time the World Trade Organization has ruled largely in Canada’s favour, failing to find injury to the U.S. lumber industry who, at full capacity, can only supply around 70 per cent of their nation’s demand for softwood lumber.
And yet as each hard-fought Softwood Lumber Agreement lapses, the tariffs and the rhetoric re-emerge on both sides, the WTO issues another non-binding ruling in Canada’s favour and the provinces are bullied into levying export taxes and quotas. We get to keep believing we’re right, and U.S. protectionist interests continue to dictate the terms of our trade.
So, I’ve come to see it as not so much a trade dispute as it is a bargaining cycle.
Like any teachers strike, or public sector bargaining process — cultivating outrage can be tremendously advantageous for one side or the other.
In this fast-evolving media landscape that is not always working in the consumer’s best interest, an angry public should always ask the question, ‘who benefits the most from our outrage?’.
With around $300 billion in goods and services flowing between our two nations annually, it seems to me that nobody really has an interest in poking that bear. And what to what effect, pray tell, is your renewed sense of alienation going to have on Donald Trump?
Softwood lumber gets everyday Canadians riled up because it slots itself nicely in amongst indignities too numerous to mention that Canada endures on account of a massive dependence on the U.S. for our exports that yields far more advantages than drawbacks.
While it’s not always a good quality in a journalist to incite your apathy, there seems so very little to gain through outrage, no position to leverage. Yes, it’s unfair — but since when has life been fair?
For that matter, since when has a $12 block of cheddar —emerging from our subsidized dairy industry — been fair? There’s actually an ilicit trade in black market mozzarella flowing from Wisconsin into Canada servicing Canadian pizzarias with affordable cheese. They call it ‘white gold’.
So, relax. Console yourself with the idea that somewhere there is a Wisconsin dairy farmer who’s just as mad as you that their ‘competitive advantage’ is being nullified by protectionism on the other side of the border.
Nobody’s hands are clean. — Chris Marchand