2017 Risk Management Conference: Expect NAFTA talks to be a bumpy ride

Anyone surprised about U.S. President Donald Trump’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville over the weekend should keep one thing in mind: when it comes to history, Trump sees a blank slate.

This, according to David Frum, senior editor at The Atlantic and keynote speaker at the Canadian Investment Review‘s 2017 Risk Management Conference, currently underway in Muskoka, Ont. Frum reminded his audience of Trump’s fuzzy knowledge of historical figures, such as Frederick Douglass, the 19th century African-American social reformer who Trump suggested was still alive and doing good work.

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Today, however, Trump’s shaky grasp on American history is becoming even more dangerous as the president lashes out at his foes. “The White House is in meltdown mode and the president is lashing out,” Frum said, noting Trump’s early morning tweet about Amazon affected its market value. All this activity is coordinating with one of Trump’s policy planks — his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“One would have hoped that this would have disappeared from Trump’s consciousness,” he said, noting that, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was visiting Washington, Trump was visibly bored.

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Today, NAFTA negotiations remain front and centre for Trump — a key focus of an administration staffed by people who, Frum asserted, are unqualified and inexperienced “mini-Trumps who emulate his confrontational and aggressive style.”

Frum referred to opening statements by U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer as an example. “Opening statements should be unprovocative, dull and include vague statements of goodwill. Everything else happens behind closed doors. Lighthizer took a strong and aggressive position in his opening remarks.”

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His lambasting of NAFTA contrasted with statements from his counterparts in Canada and Mexico, and are a sign of things to come, said Frum.

Read the full article on Benefits Canada’s companion site, Canadian Investment Review.