John Ivison: Why Trump’s new top diplomat could be bad news for Canada

“There’s no way to sugar-coat this – he’s a hawk’s hawk and he’s not sympathetic to our progressive agenda.”

That’s how one senior member of the Liberal government reacted to the news that Rex Tillerson had been ousted as U.S. Secretary of State and replaced by CIA director, Michael Pompeo.

Donald Trump’s tweet that he had replaced his top diplomat didn’t so much spread around world capitals, as detonate.

Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018

In Ottawa, the Trudeau government took some comfort from the fact that North America is regarded as a domestic file by the Trump Administration, and that the Pompeo appointment was more about re-aligning policy on North Korea, Iran and China.

“Tillerson had no influence on NAFTA and I doubt (Pompeo) will either,” said one official.

But that optimistic view is not held universally in the upper reaches of the Trudeau government.

Tillerson’s departure will be blow for Chrystia Freeland, the Global Affairs Minister, who had built a strong relationship with the former Exxon executive.

There is also a sense that the NAFTA discussions have, after eight rounds, moved out of the hands of the professional negotiators and will be decided by the president’s inner team – of which Pompeo is now decidedly a member.

The optimists in the Canadian government point to a Cato Institute study that rated Pompeo a perfect free-trader in Congress, during his time as a member of the House of Representatives from Kansas. He voted nine times out of nine to oppose trade barriers and four times out of …read more

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