Striking the Colours

In the days of sail, any warship facing insurmountable odds and unable to escape, would strike her colours as a sign of submission. Usually this act was preceded by firing off one cannon not aimed at the superior enemy (intended to miss), thereby claiming that, “Honour was served”.

The superior adversary, once colours were struck, would take possession of the surrendered vessel, without firing in return. This was the accepted conduct to avoid any senseless death and destruction that would result in combatting a superior warship.

Canada has now retaliated in the trade skirmish with Trump. To continue tariff retaliation is reckless political gamesmanship. Honour has been served. There is no benefit to be gained by continuing or exacerbating this squabble – Trump will not change his tariffs; and if Canada persists in continuing with petty defiance, it endangers our economy to an insuperable level.

Trump was not out to punish Canada. His goal is to protect and advance American industry. His motive was not to hurt Canada – that’s a side-effect that he cannot avoid. On the other hand, Canada’s response with retaliation is nothing less than punitive – it is provoking and thoughtless. Thoughtless, in the sense that such actions will not alter Trump’s policies but may irritate him to a point where he may (irrationally) decide to maul the Canadian economy.

Trump’s contemplating tariffs on the car industry is simply musing – unlikely to be implemented. Doing so would hurt the car industry in North America, including his own.

In fact, Canada would be prudent to remove our retaliatory tariffs after a month or two. On the other hand, consumer boycotting is acceptable and patriotic especially since Trump cannot retaliate. Rejecting American products and services including travel to the U S, is consumer discretionary and safe.

If Canada persists in further threats of childish retaliation (as some idiots advise), Trump can simply impose oil tariffs or even stop the pipeline flow. Such retaliation would destroy our economy and our government’s ability to govern. It would bankrupt Canada and cause no damage to the U S which, thanks to fracking, is now self-sufficient in oil and close to becoming a net exporter of oil.

Let’s review some facts. Ontario’s benefits from oil were $3 billion in 2017. Outside Alberta, there are 3,400 Canadian companies involved with the oil industry. There are 228,000 direct and indirect jobs related. In 2017, $13 billion was collected from taxes and royalties by Canadian provincial and federal governments.

That’s what is at stake. If Trump decides he’s had enough tit-for-tat and throws a $30-a-barrel tariff, Canada cannot prevent him. Or he could (in the ‘interests of the environment and ecology’) decide to shut down the pipelines (which suffer from leaks almost weekly). Let’s remember that our only oil outlet is through the States.

Let’s review what began this contretemps.

Trump was elected to serve the interests of the United States, especially his supporters. He was not elected to be nice to foreign interests such as the EU, Asia, Mexico, China or South America. If his policies irritate, frustrate or hurt the interests of these outsiders, so be it.

Forget the useless arguments with “statistical facts” to compare tariffs and trade imbalances. These “facts” are irrelevant – except in the court of public opinion. This is a matter of protectionist policy to advance Trump’s strategy. This is not about being ‘fair’ or mutually beneficial. This is about protection of American interests – meaning if your interests have to take a hit, then so be it. Opinions of foreigners do not count with Trump. That’s what he means when he claims this is ‘for national security’. Trump is laying the groundwork for war.

Opponents of this policy, both foreign and domestic, point out that trade means jobs and prosperity. Yes it does, especially their own profits. Business organizations (especially the multi-nationals) are opposed to tariffs because their priority is to make a profit – therefore any mitigation of trade is bad. They are not thinking, “America first and America self-sufficient”.

They intentionally misinterpret ‘national security’ as unjustified rationale for reducing imports. It has nothing to do with business – it has to do with creating self-sufficiency with domestic manufacturing of all components needed to engage in war.

The nonsense spouted by Trudeau when explaining to Trump that there cannot be a national security threat because we fought in world wars together… that’s not what was meant and Trudeau is being disingenuous or simply stupid.

To return to Canada and the Striking of the Colours… this is not a live-or-die matter. If it cannot be resolved diplomatically, Canada should move forward without further exacerbating the tariff war. It should be abandoned as money lost on an investment. To pursue the matter and risk repeated reprisals will only gain political brownies with the Trump-haters and fools who go berserk no matter what Trump says or does.

Recently Trudeau said, “This is who we are, we’re there for each other in times of difficulty, in times of opportunity. We lean on each other and we stand strong and that’s what we do from coast to coast to coast.” Drama for brainless yokels.

Trudeau could score some ephemeral poll-points with such pissant nonsense (projecting himself as the plucky, feisty, brave ‘Canadian David’ fighting Goliath). But if such gamesmanship miscalculates and his bluff is called, it will be Canadians who will pay the butcher’s bill of his hubris.

Let it go. Mitigate our losses. Eventually, Trump can be convinced to remove the tariffs. Unless Trudeau persists in poking the bear.

Let’s not generate any more “negative interactions”, shall we?

(See “Is There Depth to Irrationality?”)

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