Those Canucks and their grumpy Uncle, or NAFTA v. 2.0

Late in the evening of 30 Sep 18, a tentative agreement was struck between Canadian and American negotiators for a revision of the 1994 NAFTA treaty. It was the fulfillment of a campaign promise by Donald Trump to renegotiate NAFTA, having called it the worst trade deal ever for America. He is not the only one to feel that way, and we will get to why shortly. NAFTA has had its detractors across North America. On 27 August the US and Mexico reached agreement of terms for a renegotiated NAFTA, having sidelined Canada and thus increasing pressure on Canadian negotiators to either agree to a new deal or abandon NAFTA altogether. With the agreement reached at the end of last month, the scene is set for the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – dubbed the USMCA, thus easing tensions in what had been an increasingly acrimonious relationship between the Trump administration and the Trudeau government over trade. As with the original NAFTA treaty, there are people who see pros and cons on all sides. But the point of real interest here is the study of Trump’s bullying tactics and a look at the astrology between Canada, the US, Trump and the original NAFTA treaty, the latter of which is actually quite interesting.

Starting with Canada, the founding of the Canadian Confederation was signaled in the capital Ottawa by a cannon shot at 12:05 pm on 1 Jul 1867. The chart (bigger) is below. The chart shows a Sun/Moon/Uranus conjunction at the Midheaven in Cancer, with Libra rising. That conjunction is sextile to Mars in the 11th and trine to Jupiter in the 5th, thus making an easy opposition with the Mars/Jupiter opposition. Neptune is on the Vertex in Aries in the 7th house. The whole setup is one of great openness, energy, idealism and optimism, a strong humanitarian instinct and outlook and indefatigable independence. And it is expressed in the nicest possible way – but with the caveat as is often stated of Libra, the ‘iron fist in the velvet glove’. In other words, the affable nature of Canadians belies a nation that will not be pushed around, most especially by the likes of Donald Trump. It’s a case of, “I’ll work with you as the day is long, but I won’t work for you any longer than I have to.”

Trump aside, there has been a long friendship between Canada and the US, as evidenced by the longest undefended international border in the world and emphasized by the synastry of the two nations, which places the US Venus and Jupiter on the aforementioned Canadian Sun/Moon/Uranus/Midheaven conjunction. That being said, the relationship has not always been roses, but what relationship ever is? Due to Trump’s insistence, speaking of roses, the NAFTA treaty has now been renegotiated, pending ratification by the respective legislatures in the three nations, and will receive a new incarnation at some point in the future, or maybe not. This brings us to the original NAFTA treaty and Canada.

NAFTA came into effect for all parties at midnight on 1 Jan 1994. That chart for Ottawa shows a rather interesting feature: the rising degree is identical with Canada’s rising degree, as is that of the Midheaven (MC) and with the Vertex nearly identical. The synastry shows the NAFTA Sun/Mercury/Venus/Mars on the Canadian Nadir, with a Jupiter trine to the Canadian MC. What’s not to like, astrologically speaking? In general, NAFTA has seen a modest gain in most areas for Canada economically over the years, with the most marked advantages being for the agricultural sector and cross-border investment in Canada, evidenced by the NAFTA conjunction at the Canadian Nadir (IC). The main sticking point has been the ‘productivity gap’, which remains at 72% of American productivity. So, why would Canadians want to renegotiate NAFTA, given that its economy is better with it? The point is, they didn’t, really. Things were going fairly well as they were, with a few wrinkles, which eventually could probably be ironed out.

Manufacturing held steady for Canada with NAFTA, but therein lies the main reason why the Trump administration wanted to renegotiate it – NAFTA hurt American manufacturing jobs. It caused a large number of them to go south to Mexico, especially for the auto industry, which lost a third of its jobs to Mexico. In other words, Trump’s voter base suffered under NAFTA. This move by Trump was not about redressing a ‘bad treaty’. It was about domestic politics. And look at when the new deal was struck: right before the US midterms, which take place in just over a month.

As to why Trump called NAFTA the job-destroying deal that it was, I have a first-hand accounting of why. One of my friends worked in an auto parts factory at the time NAFTA went into effect. Within a year, he was contracted to help oversee the moving of his now-defunct workplace lock, stock and barrel down to Mexico, which he duly did. Everything in the factory was loaded onto low-boys and semi-trailers and the long caravan made its way to the border. And thus it was for a large sector of the American automotive industry. However, Trump was not correct when he said NAFTA was the worst trade deal for the US. The worst effect on American manufacturing was neoliberal economics in general, and as a result China saw swaths of US industry set up shop on their soil, far more than what we saw with NAFTA. The point to this is when Trump talked about NAFTA, he was talking to his voter base on the campaign trail, and it is those people who have seen their jobs, livelihoods and security evaporate over the years. To that group, NAFTA was indeed a terrible deal, and they wrongly blame China. It is really corporate America they should be blaming, because they are generally the chief beneficiaries of any free trade deal.

Thus, Trump has had two main targets with his tariffs – NAFTA and China. Most American manufacturing jobs have gone to Asia since Nixon opened trade with China and China joined the WTO. The biggest target is now on the back of China with the preliminary NAFTA deal having been reached with Canada and Mexico. So, we will probably not hear much out of Washington about Canada and Mexico as far as trade goes, except for maybe boasting. We can probably expect the US Congress to move quickly on firming up the particulars and ratifying the deal. Trump’s synastry with Canada is revealing, containing many connections between Canada’s planets and Trump’s Neptune. He has employed a fair amount of smoke and mirrors (Neptune) with Canada over the course of the negotiations and has largely tried bullying tactics, calling Justin Trudeau weak, and so forth. It may seem to him that he has wrenched a victory with the USMCA, but the long-term damage to US/Canadian relations under Trump have suffered a serious blow. It would take some time to mend fences after he is gone.

The real bullying started with the tariffs on steel and aluminum on June 1st. At that point the Moon and Saturn were transiting at the Canadian IC, ruling the resource sector, with Saturn retrograde. Two days later the Canadians announced they would begin more serious negotiations. What else was there to do? They were backed into a corner and stood to lose the economic gains of NAFTA v. 1.0. And what has been gained in all the kerfuffle now that some sort of deal has been reached? Not much has really changed, not for Canada anyway. The whole affair, for all the threats and fanfare, turned out to be a ‘meh’ moment, a smattering of applause. The biggest change was with the meat and dairy industry, which will allow for more American imports, but even at that, the change is only about 4%. So, with all this to and fro, the thing that really emerges largest from all this is that Trump has a ‘win’ before midterms, symbolic though it is. We will have to wait and see when the implementation date is. We can probably expect it to come around the first of the year or the end of this one when Saturn transits over the NAFTA Sun.

And how do Canucks feel about their new you-beaut trade deal with their grumpy Uncle to the south? Pretty cheesed off, from what I have been able to gather so far. They feel coerced (they were), bullied (they were) and preyed upon. We’ll see about the latter. I am waiting for the Sun/Uranus of the Canadian chart to kick in, which it will at some point. Uranus is nothing if not inventive and original, and it serves Canadians well. And in the meantime the Canadian Ixion at the MC will  bring out the best of Canadian satire about the whole affair. But Canada will still have to export energy to the US and Mexico, which means mining of tar sands and fracking will continue unabated. The Americans will still try to chip away at the supply management system of the Canadian government, too, even with the concession on the dairy industry, for which Trudeau has promised to compensate Canadian dairy farmers. The fact is, American dairy farmers produce too much milk, and it was lobbying by the dairy industry in the US that produced Trump’s rhetoric about Canadian dairy products. It is also one of the key sectors of his voter base.

So, the end result of this ‘fantastic new trade deal’? Basically, it is business as usual, so far. But it has Canadians unified in their distaste for Trump, putting it mildly. The problem with using strong-arm tactics with people is that they remember, and they begin to look elsewhere, looking for new alliances and new friends. Pretty soon, the one using the coercive tactics finds themselves with fewer and fewer friends. We can fully expect Canadian business to begin finding new avenues of trade, away from the dollar and toward the more multi-polar world that is emerging. Perhaps then the Uncle to the south will be more amenable to the Great White North. Let’s hope the border stays undefended.

Featured pic from Pax on both houses

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