The sheer ignorance of U.S. President Donald Trump when it comes to how free trade works between Canada, the United States and Mexico means Canadians have good cause to be worried about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
David Frum, the speechwriter for former president George W. Bush and author of the newly released book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos in an interview that when it comes to negotiations around NAFTA and fears over whether Trump will pull the plug on the 25-year-old agreement, Canadians are right to be worried.
“Canadians should be worried a lot about NAFTA because Donald Trump, he doesn’t understand what it does, he doesn’t understand why it’s important, he doesn’t understand why it’s important to American industries,” said Frum, who is now the senior editor of The Atlantic magazine.
“He lives by domination and he lives to destroy.”
Negotiators from all three countries are in Montreal for the sixth and final round of discussions aimed at renegotiating the agreement.
The current round began on Jan. 23 and wraps up on Jan. 29, just as Parliament resumes after its winter break.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to tear up NAFTA and accused Canada and Mexico of taking advantage of the United States through the deal, alleging it gave better benefits to those countries than it does to Americans.
His comments prompted Bruce Heyman, the American ambassador to Canada under former president Barack Obama, to say earlier this month that Trump was “playing a bit of Russian roulette.”
WATCH BELOW: Trump playing ‘Russian roulette’ with NAFTA talk threats: former ambassador
To counter Trump’s rhetoric, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government have been running a massive charm campaign south of the border aimed at gathering and mobilizing allies among American business leaders, state governors and officials, and advocates.
The goal is to make it clear that, contrary to Trump’s rhetorical blasts about it being a “terrible deal,” NAFTA actually has significant and myriad benefits for all of the countries involved.
Frum said the message appears to be getting through to those allies, and they will be putting pressure on Trump not to burn up the deal.
“A lot of people do understand.,” he said. “The governors of states like Texas and Georgia — these are Republican states — are defending NAFTA. Even very Trumpist states like Arkansas, the governor there is a strong defender of NAFTA. So there will be pressures on him and as with everything, the future depends on what people do.”
The future is also one of the issues Frum addresses in the new book.
In it, he describes what he sees ahead in 2018 and why he thinks the year will be an even better one than last year for Trump.
“My guess is Donald Trump gets stronger in 2018 and his grip on the Republican Party gets tighter,” he said.
Frum pointed to economic growth, a strong stock market, and the tax cut bill recently passed by Congress as among the factors that will help Trump consolidate his influence among the party, including those within the party who loathe him but want to see the Republican agenda pushed through.
That’s not to say it will all be smooth sailing, he said.
“Meanwhile, while the Mueller investigation proceeds, we’re going to see more and more that Donald Trump did some really improper things with the Russians in 2016 and Republicans are going to have to make a very serious choice about whether they will protect American sovereignty and independence, or the Trump presidency.”
Still, Frum stressed he is optimistic about what the future will bring and how the effects of the Trump presidency are mobilizing American voters.
WATCH: In this extended interview, neo-conservative commentator David Frum talks about how the Republican congress is enabling President Trump and the impact that is having on American democracy.
“One of the hopeful things that I see – and I do see hopeful things, I have not written a pessimistic book — is a rising level of civic engagement,” he said.
“But since Donald Trump took office, since he began to abuse the presidency and the way he comports himself like no president ever has before, you see these women’s marches — the first one and then the anniversary march — and the level of reader engagement that you have. People really care. They are stepping up, and I think we’re in a race between the bad factors in American life and the positive ones.”
Which one will ultimately win out is the question that, for now, remains unanswered.