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politics briefing newsletter

Good morning,

The World Trade Organization is under threat. “Despite clear evidence that trade has contributed to unprecedented global prosperity and development, the rules and institutions that facilitate trade seem increasingly fragile," a recent discussion paper from the Canadian government says. Although, the paper says, that fragility “cannot be attributed to any single cause or any single country," to most international observers, there has big one big disruptor lately: the United States and the America-first policies of Donald Trump.

Canada says it wants to do something about it. To that end, the government has invited representatives from a dozen countries around the world to meet in Ottawa today and try to come up with some concrete steps to fix the trade-rules body. Those countries include Australia, Brazil, the European Union, Japan and Mexico – but do not include the United States. (Mr. Trump has publicly mused about withdrawing the U.S. from the trade body it helped set up decades ago.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo on Parliament Hill yesterday. According to pool notes, Mr. Azevedo acknowledged the organization was facing some “serious problems," before reporters were ushered out of the room so he and Mr. Trudeau could have a private chat.

For those trade policy wonks among you, some of today’s events will be streamed online. You can find out more here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is exclusively available only to our digital subscribers. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


Also in Ottawa today: Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte will give a special address to the House of Commons this morning.

Switching from international trade to internal trade, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc is in Vancouver today to meet with some of his provincial counterparts. The Liberals are hoping to change the channel in federal-provincial relations from the carbon tax, which drew some strong words yesterday from Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. “I hate to sound cynical here, but it strikes me that [political calculus] must be the prevailing logic because it certainly isn’t about fairness,” Mr. Pallister told The Globe, of the way the federal carbon-pricing plan is structured.

Mr. Trudeau says he’s looking into suspending the export permits of arms leaving Canada to go to Saudi Arabia.

The Quebec government says it will extend its religious-symbols ban to also include prohibiting public servants from wearing cloaks such as the chador or niqab.

Over in Washington, Chinese and Russian spies routinely listen to Donald Trump’s phone calls, the New York Times reports.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is (temporarily) getting a new chief of staff. Michael Balagus is coming up from Toronto to help Mr. Singh in Ottawa. Mr. Balagus is currently chief aide to Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, and has served in similar capacities to Manitoba NDP leaders.

Yet another New Democrat MP is leaving Ottawa. Sheila Malcolmson, of Nanaimo, B.C., is leaving the federal party to run provincially in a by-election that could decide which party – NDP or Liberal – governs British Columbia. More than half a dozen other NDP MPs have left their jobs in the last year or announced they won’t run for their seats again.

A Liberal MP has also said he won’t run in next year’s election. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who has represented a western Toronto riding off-and-on since 2004, says he’s calling it quits. His loss by just a handful of votes in the 2011 election led to a case that went to the Supreme Court.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities wants the federal government to spend billions more on rural Internet access.

And it takes a village to create a tweet, if you work for the government (as we’ve written about before). CBC has the latest example: It took more than a dozen public servants to sign off on a Twitter message praising Syria for joining the Paris climate agreement. No one, apparently, took issue with the tweet, but it was the subject of ridicule as soon as it was sent out publicly and deleted within half an hour.

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the Liberal carbon pricing plan: “The political arguments against, so far, haven’t really been about flaws in Mr. Trudeau’s emissions-reduction policy. Taken together, they amount to arguments against broad-based, emissions-reduction policies in general. They are arguments to do nothing.”

Andrew Coyne (National Post) on the Liberal carbon pricing plan: “What is almost certainly true, however, is that the plan will be neutral to positive in its effects on (most) household budgets. Opposition on this point leans heavily on eye-rolling appeals to what ‘everybody knows.’ A tax that makes you better off? Har!”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on Canada’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia: “Middle East experts are gobsmacked by Prince Mohammed’s involvement in the war in Yemen, which now resembles a quagmire, and which had not yet started when the Harper government initially negotiated the deal to sell LAVs to Saudi Arabia in 2014. The war, in which the Saudi military has been responsible for countless civilian casualties in its attempt to quash Houthi rebels backed by Iran, has radically changed the picture for Canada.”

David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on Bank of Canada rate hikes: “The Bank of Canada has opened the door to raising interest rates at a faster pace than it has been doing over the past year and a half. If the central bank chooses to walk through that door, we may thank them in a couple of years. Quicker rate hikes now might save us from more rate hikes later.”

Financial Times editorial board on the World Trade Organization: “As long as Mr Trump regards world trade as a zero-sum game, Chinese interests as intrinsically opposed to American ones, and all global institutions as objects of suspicion, reforming the WTO enough to get him to re-engage will be extremely difficult.”

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