In this pay-to-play era of American foreign policy, where other nations apparently gain favor with the president by contributing to his private businesses, I am intrigued by the Trump administration’s random acts of hostility toward traditional allies.
A recent example is Vice President Pence’s insistence on unacceptable preconditions for a meeting that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought on NAFTA.
Another is the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
Trump has made no secret of his antagonism toward Mexico. He often derides Mexicans. But what does he have against the EU? And why is he picking on Canada?
A Steelworkers Union official said on TV recently that – unlike China – Canada abides faithfully by its trade agreements with the US. And Canada is America’s top trading partner, with the US exporting billions more than it imports.
Of course Canada – as well as Mexico and the EU – will retaliate.And that will be bad news for many American producers, especially farmers.
While steel and aluminum jobs will be created in America, thousands of workers engaged in industries hit by retaliatory tariffs will be laid off.
And the tariffs will raise domestic prices on a wide range of products from automobiles to beer.
So what’s going on?
I’m sure you’ve heard of Trump’s favorable treatment of countries that contribute to business deals involving him or his family. A recent example is his intervention on behalf of China’s telecom giant ZTE after the Chinese government’s decision to support the Trump family’s lavish Indonesian development.
And you may recall how Trump’s treatment of Qatar mellowed after that country’s government relented and agreed to discuss investment in a Jared Kushner property.
So is that how it is now? Find a way to enrich the Trump family or risk hostility from the US government?
Of course. Trump could be pressuring Mexico to pay for that wall he promised to build. But what about Canada?
Might the US president soften his attitude toward Canada if Trudeau finds a way to save the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto?
But I’m sure Canadians won’t play that game, cost it what it may.