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FILE - In this April 9, 2017, file photo, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Bannon was with President Donald Trump on his return trip from Florida. Trump won't say whether he plans to keep Steve Bannon, a onetime top adviser and key campaign strategist, in the White House. 'We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon,' Trump said at an impromptu news conference on Aug. 15 where he fielded questions about his confidence in his adviser. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

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Good morning,

Since Donald Trump was elected, the Canadian Prime Minister's Office has worked overtime to build connections with the administration. As The Globe reported in May, high-level aides on both sides of the border keep in touch. Which sometimes leads to unlikely friendships.

Take Steve Bannon, cofounder of the nationalist Breitbart outlet and White House adviser, who has forged a connection with Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau's senior political adviser. A New Yorker piece examining the possibility of Mr. Bannon being booted from the West Wing has revealed a little bit more. "Bannon has become friends with Gerald Butts, a longtime political adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. They met in New York during the transition and now talk regularly. Bannon sees Butts as a sort of left-wing version of himself. Last year, as the Prime Minister's popularity was in decline, Trudeau pushed through a tax hike on the rich, and it helped him rebound… 'There's nothing better for a populist than a rich guy raising taxes on rich guys,' Butts told Bannon."

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Eleanor Davidson in Toronto and Chris Hannay in Ottawa. If you're reading this on the web or someone forwarded this email newsletter to you, you can sign up for Politics Briefing and all Globe newsletters here. Let us know what you think.

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NAFTA UPDATES

NAFTA day is finally here. The fate of over a trillion dollars of annual trade will be debated at a Marriott hotel in Washington, as negotiators for Canada, the United States and Mexico hash out the details of a renegotiated North American free-trade agreement. But they won't be starting off with anything easy: The Globe and Mail has learned that the first round of talks will jump right into the Chapter 19 dispute resolution provisions. This session of negotiations will last until Sunday, with investment and the digital economy also taking up a significant part of the agenda.

Confused about what the NAFTA talks will entail, and what their effect might  be? The Globe's Adrian Morrow breaks down the details of the talks that could alter what trade looks like in North America.

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Canada's NAFTA wish list: "The Canadian side has already dodged the big bullets. What had Ms. Freeland and company very frightened was the Washington threat to unilaterally impose a border adjustment tax on imports. That plan, supported by House Speaker Paul Ryan, would have touched off a brutal trade war. But Mr. Trump fortunately abandoned the idea. This was after he fortunately abandoned the idea of scrapping NAFTA altogether. More recently, he has threatened to curb steel imports, a move that would hit the Canadian industry hard. But Mr. Trump hasn't moved on that either, at least not yet. So far, he's been more blather than bite. But in respect to the environment, Canadian negotiators' hopes are far-fetched. They're not dealing with the green-washed Obama administration any more. They're dealing with renegades in power."

Francesca Rhodes (The Globe and Mail) on a feminist approach to NAFTA: "When it comes to the promise of inclusive growth, the government has yet taken no tangible steps to close the gender wage gap or to ensure living wages for the working poor, the majority of whom are women… That Ms. Freeland called for more labour safeguards to be part of a renegotiated deal is a positive step towards gender equality. But it's not only about improving worker rights and wages. Governments must also recognize and invest in the care economy, which forces too many women into precarious work."

Andrew Coyne (National Post) on setting up NAFTA for failure:"We must conclude that what Donald Trump wants out of a renegotiated NAFTA, in the Trudeau government's estimation, is a feminist-aboriginal rights manifesto against global warming. Either that, or Justin Trudeau and his advisers have concluded the talks have no chance of succeeding, and are already preparing for their demise. It is hard, otherwise, to make sense of the government's apparent belief that the talks, instituted at the behest of a government that is not only the most protectionist U.S. administration in nearly a century, but also the most overtly regressive, offer a golden opportunity to convert NAFTA into a wish list of the most fevered ambitions of liberal progressives, circa this minute."

CANADIAN HEADLINES

Ireland's Prime Minister
will visit Canada this week and march in the Montreal Pride Parade with Mr. Trudeau on Sunday.

The Liberal government says its review of the environmental assessment process is focused on efficiency and will not burden the resources sector with more red tape.

A group of conservative activists tell the Hill Times they are planning to organize and push the federal Conservatives to the political centre. Two people involved may have some awkward family dinners: Scott Gilmore, married to Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, and Nick Tsergas, brother-in-law of Kate Purchase, Mr. Trudeau's director of communications. It's a small world.

And Alberta politician Derek Fildebrandt has left the United Conservative Party caucus, after a week that saw him under fire for listing his taxpayer-subsidized apartment on Airbnb, double-dipping on expense claims and being charged with a hit-and-run.

The Globe and Mail editorial board on federal prisons: "Correctional Service Canada quietly removed caged-in exercise pens at the isolation unit of a federal prison in Alberta over the weekend. Good. Dismantling the structures, which were better suited to dog kennels than prisons, is the correct decision. Full credit is due to CSC management for making it – with a caveat...The most recent decision stands as another example of CSC's unfortunate propensity to act secretively and grudgingly, usually in the face of legal action, or only after specific practices are dragged into public view."

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Andrew Scheer: "A strain of populist, anti-immigrant nativism runs through the Conservative Party, which previous leaders have at times suppressed, and at times exploited. Charlottesville confronts Canadian Conservatives with a choice: to play footsy with intolerants, or to expel them from the party and the movement. Which will Mr. Scheer choose?"

Shree Paradkar (Toronto Star) on The Rebel Media: "The likes of Levant and other 'white-passing' Jewish people of the far right, are finally realizing that although many of them enjoy the privileges of white people, white supremacy casts upon them the same contemptuous gaze as it does on Black and brown people, that their common divisive ideology was not sufficient glue for true alignment."

INTERNATIONAL HEADLINES

U.S. President Donald Trump
is known for reacting harshly to those who contradict him. Yesterday, that contradiction came from none other than himself. After a conciliatory statement on Monday about the violence in Charlottesville, calling the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis "criminals and thugs," Mr. Trump returned to the rhetoric on Tuesday that "both sides" were to blame for the violent rallies in Charlottesville over the weekend. Trump's advisers had hoped Monday's remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president's retorts yesterday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seems to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

If Mr. Trump doesn't already have his hands full with threats from North Korea, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is threatening to re-start his country's nuclear program. On Tuesday, Mr. Rouhani said Iran's nuclear program could be restarted in mere hours if the U.S. imposes any more sanctions on Tehran. Iran says new U.S. sanctions breach the agreement it reached in 2015 with the United States, Russia, China and three European powers in which it agreed to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most sanctions.

And after 27 years, Saudi Arabia is reopening its border with Iraq. Since 1990, the border crossing was opened once a year, in order to allow pilgrims on their way to Mecca to pass through. The Saudi charge d'affaires in Iraq told Al Jazeera the new crossing will be  "dedicated to the transportation of goods." The border reopening comes after an announcement earlier this week that Saudi Arabia will be establishing a joint trade commission with Iraq. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are working to improve diplomatic relations with Iraq, in an effort to move regional influence away from Iran.

The Globe and Mail editorial board on the challenges of working with Donald Trump: "When President Donald Trump was a reality-television star on The Apprentice, his signature phrase was 'You're fired!' Now it is Mr. Trump who is getting fired, by the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the United States. As of Tuesday, four people – and counting – had resigned from the American Manufacturing Council, an advisory board created by Mr. Trump to help steer policy on manufacturing and job creation. All of them left over the President's unconvincing denunciation of the deadly violent march by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., on the weekend."

Zaid al-Ali (The New York Times) on Iranian influence in Iraq: "Mosul is back in the Iraqi government's hands and the war against the Islamic State seems to finally be approaching its end. This is the good news. But one of the byproducts of the campaign is that Iran's reach now extends even deeper throughout Iraq and seems unlikely to go away any time soon. A crucial fighting force in the battle for Mosul and other areas liberated from the Islamic State was provided by paramilitary groups that receive supplies and support from Iran, and cross the Iran-Iraq border at will."

Alexander Gillespie (Al Jazeera) on North Korea's Guam threats: "North Korea has long been increasing its nuclear capabilities and missile technologies in absolute defiance of the international community. But if it flies a missile over Japan and lands it in the territorial waters of the United States, it would be breaching three important rules that have been helping to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula.

  1. Failing to issue a notification
  2. Shooting missiles over foreign territory
  3. Landing missiles in foreign waters

The likelihood of Trump withstanding these provocations with regards to notification, trajectory and impact zones, is about the same as Kim Jong-un doing the same if he were presented with a similar scenario. "

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