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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Multilateralism Project

Monday, I submitted page proofs for a chapter in the forthcoming 2019 volume of  Canada Among Nations, an annual book about Canadian foreign policy to be published by Palgrave. David Carment of Carleton's NPSIA and Chris Sands of Johns Hopkins SAIS are editing the volume, entitled Canada–US Relations; Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?

My chapter (4) focuses on "'America First' and US-Canadian Relations." Though Canada is a primary concern, the paper discusses the threat "America First" poses to multilateralism and the liberal international order. As I've previously noted, President Trump has labeled Canada (and other allies) a threat to U.S. national security in order to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on these states. He also called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "weak and dishonest" and repeatedly threatens to end NAFTA and bring "ruination" to Canada's economy.

My chapter discusses whether Trump's approach to international relations could be viewed as an especially intense version of realism that fails to recognize the potential virtues of multilateralism. Most of the institutions Trump threatens were built during the Cold War with the intent of aligning states with the US versus the Soviet bloc. Trump demonizes China, and at least one chapter in the new volume focuses on this strategy, but the President does not seem to recognize the potential  value of having allies working with the US to counter what he calls unfair and illegal Chinese trade practices. Every relationship is a transaction for Trump, a deal to be won or lost, and America can only win in his view if all other states lose -- even if that means demonizing long-time blue chip allies like Canada and Germany. Each relationship is ultimately bilateral and there is advantage to be taken.

I'm now working on a followup paper for a workshop on US-Canadian relations cohosted by last year's Carleton Fulbright scholar, James McCormick, at Iowa State in March. Former Library of Parliament International Affairs analyst Gerald Schmitz is the other host. I've been invited to submit that paper for consideration in a special issue of Canadian Foreign Policy Journal focusing on “America First”? Meeting the Challenges of the New Nationalism for Canada and the World.”  Schmitz is also helping to organize a one-day round-table in Ottawa on January 25th on "America First" and the International Order. I'm scheduled to partake via Skype.

For that paper and round-table, I'm expanding my work on multilateralism and looking at the proposals various western leaders are floating to save multilateralism in the wake of America First (and other threats), particularly in the areas of free trade and security.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has since mid-year 2017 called for "finding ways for like-minded democracies to act on our values and fight for the multilateral order." Though Freeland has urged the U.S. to join in the fight to save multilateralism, in October Canada hosted a meeting to fix and reform the WTO. The government invited about a dozen major trading states (including the EU as a single entity in that list). However, notably, the US was not invited to this "like-minded" summit "because it doesn’t share the views of the 13 invited countries, the new Canadian trade minister says."

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas has been calling for "an alliance of multilateralists" linking states like Japan and Canada. He has openly worried about the U.S. threat to the current order, though he too has invited the U.S. to join with its allies in saving multilateralism.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian similarly calls for a coalition of goodwill powers to address major international problems (including climate change). In his view, "Europe should align itself with countries like India, Australia, Mexico and other “powerful democracies” that share a commitment to multilateralism." Le Drian says the coalition should work with or without the U.S.

I'll stop with that list for now, but will end by noting that newly reelected Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D), who is sometimes mentioned as a 2020 presidential hopeful, was quoted in the Toronto Globe and Mail on November 3 outlining a potential alternative US strategy that would target China in a trade confrontation, but in a way that might fit with the multilateral aspirations of America's long-time allies:
Mr. Brown is trying to thread the needle: He trumpets his support for tariffs – and blasts Mr. Renacci for supporting free-trade deals under previous presidents – but criticizes Mr. Trump’s handling of the trade war. 
“You don’t play off steel workers against farmers, you don’t play off industry against agriculture, and he’s done that,” Mr. Brown said in an interview during a stop at a campaign office in a strip mall in Brunswick, Ohio, south of Cleveland. “You [should] align with our allies – Canada and Western Europe and Japan, maybe – to stop serial cheaters like China. But instead he attacked Chrystia Freeland for what she was doing and your Prime Minister.
That approach could signal a Democratic justification for approving the new USMCA and a broader way forward for the party in 2020 -- a majority of the US population supports multilateralism and free trade (perhaps in polarized response to Trump's America First), but middle class blue collar workers in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are likely still vulnerable to protectionist appeals by politicians.



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