The Canadian newspaper the National Post published a very interesting story on Monday that offered a convincing and well-sourced explanation for why Donald Trump backed down late last month on his long-promised plan to "terminate" NAFTA, the trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Post says Trump was all set to do it, but some of his own staff went behind his back, calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office and begging our neighbors to the north to change their boss' mind.
Yes, you read that right. Multiple people within the Canadian government have confirmed that White House staff secretly called the Prime Minister's office, hoping that Trudeau could talk some sense into the President of the United States.
Shockingly, this insane gambit appears to have worked. In the morning of April 26, the news was full of reports that Trump was going to sign an executive order that would kill NAFTA. Then he got on the phone with Trudeau. By 7 pm that same day, Trump issued a statement saying he'd changed his mind.
If you want a sense of the whiplash involved, take a look at how the New York Times story on the topic changed over the course of the day, from "White House Is Said to Draft Plan for U.S. Break From Nafta" to "Trump Tells Foreign Leaders That Nafta Can Stay for Now."
Another bizarre footnote to the story is the wildly different accounts given of the phone call in question by each country. Trudeau's statement is long and detailed, with pushback against "baseless allegations" made by the U.S., hopeful language about "reaching a negotiated agreement," and lots of specifics. And Trump's? "The two leaders discussed the dairy trade... They also discussed lumber coming into the United States. It was a very amicable call."