A weekly outreach to our friends and colleagues in Canada
Weekly Washington Wrap
- What’s With War Talk? US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had a cerebral response for hyped up reporters wanting to talk trade war between the US and Canada: “That would be a stimulatory thing for all your readership,” he told scribes at the White House, “We don’t think that’s going to happen.” And there you have it – the Secretary’s take on his boss, President Donald Trump’s, tough talk with Canada on trade. Trump got everyone who watches the US-Canada bilat fairly fired up this week when he slapped a 24% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber. He also threatened action to protect US dairy farmers which could throw a wrench in what most hoped would just be a simple tweak in NAFTA renegotiating. For his part, the president says he “loves Canada” but Canadian politicians have just been too smart for too long in their trade negotiations and Trump wants to level what he views as an uneven playing field for Americans. And in a rare show of unity on the US side of the border, at least for now, and on just this issue, he’s winning bipartisan praise from normally big time opponents like New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.
- Tweak or Takedown? Speaking about NAFTA, the White House says President Trump assured both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Wednesday that he won’t terminate the NAFTA Treaty at this stage but that he wants to move quickly to begin renegotiating it with them. The announcement came after news broke that Trump and his advisers had been considering issuing an executive order to withdraw the United States from the trade pact with Canada and Mexico. According to a White House statement, President Trump had a cordial phone conversation with both Trudeau and Pena this week and the leaders agreed to “proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries."
- Devil in the Details. In a blockbuster report by Politico out this week, we learned even more incredible details about the already controversial nuclear deal the Obama administration cut with Iran. The lengthy Politico investigation shines a spotlight on the terrific lengths in which the Obama administration went to allegedly thwart its well touted counter proliferation initiatives, as well as the publication claims, American security, in order to hand Iran a nuclear deal. According to Politico, when the Obama team announced last year the “one-time gesture” of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offense” that statement was far off the mark. In fact, seven prisoners, some of them known to be high security risks, were involved in the swap, and as we’ve since learned thanks to The Wall Street Journal, on the day of the exchange, the Obama administration secretly flew $400 million in cash on an unmarked cargo plane to Iran. Now Politico reveals that in addition to the dangerous seven prisoners the Obama team released, “in a series of unpublicized court filings, the Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other men, all of them fugitives. The administration didn’t disclose their names or what they were accused of doing, noting only in an unattributed, 152-word statement about the swap that the US ‘also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.’” Turns out several of the 14 were wanted for alleged roles in helping to funnel materiel to Iran-backed terror outfits, such as Hezbollah, or for participating in the global network to procure components for Iran’s nuclear program. One was believed to have helped supply Shiite militias in Iraq with a deadly type of IED that killed “hundreds” of American troops. According to the Politico report, “most, if not all” of the Justice Department lawyers and prosecutors, as well as federal agents with the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Department of Commerce, were “kept in the dark” about how their cases were being used as bargaining chips by Obama’s cadre to cut the deal with Iran. The Trump administration as well as Congress are currently reviewing US-Iran policy and President Trump says he will have “something to say” on it in the “not-too-distant future.”
Beatty and the Bilat
David and Susan Wilkins were thrilled to welcome Perrin Beatty and his wife Julie to South Carolina. Savvy Carolina-Canada Connections readers know that Perrin is head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He was in South Carolina earlier this week promoting Canada’s epic ties to the Palmetto State.
Here’s some of what the Greenville News had to say about it under the headline, Canadian chamber CEO seeks to improve trade relations with state, county:
The head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said his country’s trade relationship with the United States is like a marriage gone wrong. "But when you don’t get the attention that you should, you need to focus on it,” Perrin Beatty, the Canadian chamber’s president and CEO told The Greenville News on Monday.
“Look at it and count your blessing for having such a wonderful relationship,” he said. “Focus on seeing how you can make it even better.” Beatty said he's working not only on improving Canada's trade relationship with the United States but also its relationship with South Carolina.
He met with Gov. Henry McMaster and Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt in Greenville on Monday to discuss ways to better the relationships. Among the threats to the relationship Canada has with South Carolina and Greenville, Beatty said, is uncertainty over the future of NAFTA and talk about a possible border adjustment tax.
Currently, Beatty said, when it comes to automotive products, Canada’s relationship with the U.S. involves a supply chain that runs right across the border between the two countries “so the benefit of both of our countries depends on NAFTA."
“We need to continue to ensure that it be used to strengthen that relationship because the North American industrial base is under attack from Asia and other parts of the world and because our two countries make things together,” he said.
South Carolina and Canada also make things together in the automotive sector, in particular, he said, so, “it's very important to strengthen it as opposed to doing anything that puts it into question.”
The impact of a border adjustment tax would drive up energy costs in South Carolina and “certainly impact the trading relationship between our two countries,” Beatty said.
NAFTA is a 25-year-old agreement, so it’s not that unusual to take a look at an agreement that’s been in place that long to see if there are ways to modernize it and make it better, said David Wilkins, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada and a resident of Greenville.
“It’s the unknown that worries any trading partner with the US,” Wilkins said.
The proposed border adjustment tax by the Republican-controlled House has been discussed but is just an idea, he said.
“Those proposals are far from being enacted into law,” he said. “They’re just discussions at this point.”
Beatty said Canada's trade relationship with the US is the most important in the world, and the one with South Carolina is “very strong” and “extensive”…
Carolina-Canada Connections! David Wilkins; Louise Blais, Consul General of Canada; South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster; Perrin Beatty, and South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt on Monday in Columbia, SC.
Cheers for 31 Years!
Surrounded by South Carolina’s most distinguished citizens and legal professionals, your former US ambassador to Canada was honored Tuesday night as a recipient of the Compleat Lawyer Award from the University of South Carolina School of Law Alumni Council. David Wilkins received the award in the Platinum category for 31 years or more of service to the profession and community.
The Compleat Lawyer Awards were established in 1992 by the University of South Carolina Law School Alumni Council to recognize alumni for outstanding civic and professional accomplishments. Each year the Council recognizes up to nine outstanding alumni at the Compleat Lawyer Awards Dinner. Nominees are individuals who have made significant contributions to the legal profession and exemplify the highest standard of professional competence, ethics, and integrity, according to the university.
Wilkins was honored to receive a wonderful and warm video introduction from his great friend, Senator Lindsey Graham.
They Said What?
- “I think maybe a lot of people came to Washington during Obama’s administration and don’t have anything to compare it to. But when you go back through the years, especially during Republican presidencies, it really wasn’t this star-studded celebrity power bash. And there weren’t all these exclusive parties. That really mushroomed during the Obama years, because celebrities love Democrats and big party-givers love celebrities,” – Julie Mason, host of The SiriusXM “The Press Pool” and former White House Correspondents’ Association board member as quoted in The Hill this week regarding this Saturday’s annual DC correspondents’ gala and President Trump’s decision to skip the ultimate insider event and instead hold a rally for supporters in Pennsylvania.
- “Everyone thinks of Canada being wonderful and civil. I love Canada. But they’ve outsmarted our politicians for many years, and you people understand that,” – President Donald Trump this week when questioned by the media on whether his administration will launch a “trade war” with Canada.
- “This is a scandal. The cases bear all the hallmarks of exactly the kinds of national security threats we’re still going after. It’s stunning and hard to understand why we would do this,” – Valerie Lincy, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms, as quoted by Politico, on the Obama administration’s secret dealings with Iran and the shocking number of violent prisoners the Obama team released to hand Iran a nuclear deal.
- “We have a president who was elected to fund border security. It was also preposterous when he said that Mexico was going to do it. I told you that. And I don't care about that. Build the damn wall! You got the House. You got the Senate. You got the presidency. You got the bureaucracy. The art of the deal, screw the art of the deal. It should be the art of the victory. The art of victory. It's time to roll (Chuck) Schumer. It's time to roll the Democrats,” – Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mark Levin on his Tuesday programming hammering the president and Republicans for balking on building the border wall with Mexico.
- "All I say is: The results speak for themselves. I'll be a dynamic leader,” former Clemson University superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson who led his team to the 2016 National Championship and was a first round NFL draft pick selected by the Houston Texans.
If you are interested in the possibility of having Ambassador Wilkins speak at an event, please contact Christy Cox at Christy.Cox@nelsonmullins.com or call 803.255.9470.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.