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NAFTA has informed Canadian foreign policy from Israel to Iraq to Afghanistan

Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations Marc-Andre Blanchard abstained at the United Nations General Assembly vote and says he will attend “with great pleasure” US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s “friendship” party on January 3 for the countries that didn’t vote against the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

What was behind the Trudeau government’s abstention in the United Nations General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly rejected the Trump administration’s plan to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Council of Canadians honorary chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted, “Is this to save NAFTA?!? Shame!”

CTV reports, “Canada’s decision to abstain comes from a simple logic, according to Bessma Momani, a senior fellow with the Waterloo-based Centre for International Governance Innovation. ‘Frankly, I think it’s just one factor: NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA’…” That same article quotes Carleton University political science professor Mira Sucharov highlighting “NAFTA uncertainty” as a factor.

Global News adds, “The decision by Canada to abstain was not unexpected but represents a delicate balance the Canadian government is trying to walk as it navigates between not irritating the Americans while NAFTA negotiations are ongoing and also not alienating the roughly 50 Arab states with the power to cast votes in a powerful bloc against Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.” (The Trudeau government will likely spend millions of dollars over the next three years to win a two-year seat on the Security Council starting in 2021.)

Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper comments, “Ottawa sat on its hands to appease a leader who has toyed with us during NAFTA negotiations. They could find that tiptoeing on eggshells and losing our international voice may make no difference because if Trump wants to walk away from NAFTA, he will. A year of playing nice and biting our tongue could still count for nothing.”

And Andrew Cohen also links Canada’s vote to NAFTA and highlights in the Ottawa Citizen: “Everything we say and do these days is measured by how it is seen by Donald Trump. He prizes attention and loyalty; in refusing to oppose his stand on Israel, we want to remain in the emperor’s favour.”

There has also been the suggestion that the NAFTA talks informed the Trudeau government’s decision earlier this year to keep Canadian troops in Iraq for another two years.

In June, Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom wrote, “The federal government’s entire defence posture and much of its foreign policy is focused on convincing the US president that Canada is a loyal American ally. Ottawa’s hope is that if Trump thinks Canada is pulling its weight militarily, he will order his negotiators to go easy on this country during the upcoming North American Free Trade Agreement talks.”

And it has likewise been suggested that trade with the US was a factor in the decision to send Canadian troops to Afghanistan.

In November 2008, Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said, “We have to be able to offer [President Barack Obama] something he needs if we are going to convince his new administration that it should resist inevitable congressional pressure to shut Canadian products out of US markets. That something is significant military assistance, both to defend the continent and deploy abroad when it makes sense… Sensible military assistance is not too much to offer an ally so essential to our well being – especially if it gives us a preferred seat at the table in Washington when issues are discussed that are vital to Canadian job creation.”

That “sensible military assistance” cost $18 billion, the lives of 159 Canadian soldiers, 1,800 wounded, at least 70 soldiers who killed themselves, and deeper instability, death and damage in Afghanistan.

The Council of Canadians advocates for global relations based on peace, social solidarity, equality, a community of nations, an end to neo-liberalism, the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the free movement of people.