Let’s stop panicking over Trump’s Canada comments

The media, business leaders and our politicians need to stop panicking over every word U.S. President Donald Trump says.

Trump is a “watch what he does”, not a “watch what he says”, president.

While speaking in Wisconsin last week in the heart of the dairy farming industry, Trump attacked trade rules between Canada and the U.S. related to dairy products.

He went out of his way to slam Canada and our trade agreement with the U.S. as being a “complete and total disaster” and “a one-sided deal”.

Media coverage was exhaustive. Pundits and experts provided instant and exhaustive analysis.  Canadian dairy farmers were offended and responded.

I was asked to comment on Trump and his comments on the same radio station twice in the same day.

Normally sane and smart political commentators talked about Trump as if he was Sun Tzu in The Art of War. They likened Trump’s attack on the Canadian dairy industry to a Tao Master’s strategic plan to undo all of our trade agreements with the United States.

First, everyone needs to chill. Stop the panicked reactions and don’t overreact to empty rhetoric.

Trump likes to shoot from the hip. He tells people what they want to hear, wherever he is.

In some ways, Trump resembles a parrot, in that he seems to repeat the last thing he is told about an issue before he goes on stage.

I’m guessing the last person he spoke with before he hit the stage in Wisconsin was someone hit hard by Canada’s rules.

The week before, Trump was on fire about jobs in Kentucky, taking credit for a Toyota automotive investment. 

He says whatever is convenient for him to say to the audience for which he’s performing.

If you read the full transcript of Trump’s comments on the dairy industry, he clearly doesn’t understand trade agreements, the industry, or the complexities of international trade. He actually doesn’t know what he is talking about.

But that doesn’t matter. He plays to the audience, and it is exactly what the crowd wanted to hear.

What our political leaders need to understand is that Trump likes to “prime the pump” for future negotiations.

He wants to intimidate us before the negotiating even starts. He is trying to set the conditions for us to make concessions, to weaken our starting position, when the actual talks begin.

Trump always attempts to condition the other side to begin negotiations by watering down their position. He did it with the Mexican government, he tried to do it with the Chinese government and now he is doing it to us.

Finally, while I consider Trump’s comments to be almost bizarre in their lack of understanding of how trade agreements work, he does, in fairness, speak some truths about the dairy industry here in Canada.

It does appear to be almost a cartel. A Conservative friend was doing some political research for a campaign recently and found that four litres of milk in Buffalo was 38% less expensive than four litres of milk in Toronto.

Why do we pay more for milk than Americans? Our dairy supply system does need changes, and we can use the controversy over Trump’s comments to shine some light on areas of our own industry that deserve our attention.

Conservatives in Canada could take a page from the Trump playbook and examine the impact the artificially high cost of dairy products has had on the budget of middle and working class Canadians.

As for Trump, he will no doubt attack us again over whatever issue he cares about on that particular day.

We need to respond calmly and prepare for the real negotiations that will take place at the appropriate time, far away from political rallies and speeches.