National Lampoon’s Presents Justin Trudeau’s Diplomatic Vacation
If Chevy Chase had climbed off a plane in Beijing cast as the Prime Minister of Canada for National Lampoon’s Diplomatic Vacation, it could not be funnier or more embarrassing than Justin Trudeau’s misadventures today.
The Prime Minister’s foray into foreign affairs has seen some real gaffes and disasters while he tried to dodge controversies with his Finance Minister and government at home. First, there was the extended private family vacation with the Agha Khan over Christmas that reeked of luxury and largesse. Second, there was the abortive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement signing at the recent Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Vietnam where Canada’s Trade Minister agreed to sign TPP, and then the Prime Minister ditched the signing ceremony, our trading partners and some close allies. Why you might ask? Because Canada was not ready to sign even though these agreements are worked out months, if not years in advance, and are scripted to the last detail and ‘photo op.’
Then there was today’s little caper where Prime Minister Trudeau flew to China this weekend for an expected bi-later free trade agreement with China this week. The Prime Minister’s Office could not wait to gloat and spread the expected result of the State visit like ‘wild fire.’ Then there was the pièce de résistance, the Prime Minister’s Office leaked out that this trip and agreement with China was to gain leverage with the Trump Administration on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If the US does not want ‘Free Trade’ with Canada, then we will have Free Trade with China, and make the Americans sorry. Then, suddenly, out of the blue, today China announced with the press conference scheduled, and pending, that they were not ready for bi-lateral Free Trade talks with Canada. In a show of power, the Chinese President knocked the wind out of the Prime Minister’s sails and the air out of his stomach.
Both incidents look pretty silly. You must ask what Canada’s Ambassador to China has been doing with his time, if anything? You wonder what on earth is going on at International Trade, Global Affairs Canada also known as ‘Fort Fumble on the Rideau,’ and the Privy Council Office? International visits are planned months in advance. They are scripted to the very last detail including speaking points. Draft agreements and memorandums of understanding are worked out in advance for signature. There is no room for error. Officials prepare every detail and they are all scrutinized by the central agencies of government, so you must ask yourself what happened here?
Was the Trudeau government asleep at the switch or were they incompetent? Did our Ambassador and our Embassy in China just mistake Chinese intentions and willingness to play along with a bi-lateral Free Trade agreement. Did the Chinese back away without warning, and if so, why did they do it during the Prime Minister’s visit. How could our Global Affairs, International Trade, Privy Council and Justice Departments be so out of the loop on what China was prepared to do on a Canada-China Trade Agreement? What signals were missed by our officials at briefings and bi-lateral meetings with their Chinese-counterparts that led to this diplomatic disaster? Was this a sign of an overly controlling or Prime Minister’s Office and that it shut out the entirety of the machinery of government ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing? Is this a case of diplomatic back channeling at the political level to nowhere? Where was cabinet? Where they asleep too? Lastly, please tell us that this debacle was not a communications strategy to take the opposition off its game with the apparently scandal plagued Finance Minister?
The kicker here, at the end of the day, is that the Prime Minister and his office are ultimately responsible for our conduct of foreign affairs and have no one to blame but themselves. Given the government’s antics on Canada European Free Trade (CETA), TPP, and now Canada-China, the Prime Minister has no one to blame for the scupper of NAFTA talks other than himself. He can’t blame Trump now.