Pres­cott-Rus­sell hopes for best in NAFTA talks

Le Reflet (The News) - - LEAP - GREGG CHAMBERLAIN gregg.chamberlain@eap.on.ca

Talks have be­gun for ei­ther re­wri­ting or re­vo­king the 20-year-old free trade agree­ment bet­ween Ca­na­da, the Uni­ted States and Mexi­co. Which re­sult it will be may de­pend on how the Uni­ted States be­haves at the ne­go­tia­ting table.

The fu­ture of the North Ame­ri­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) is now in the hands of the ne­go­tia­ting teams for all three mem­ber coun­tries. In Pres­cott-Rus­sell, the hope is that a new NAFTA agree­ment, if it re­sults, will not end up jeo­par­di­zing the agri­cul­tu­ral com­mu­ni­ty which makes up a large part of the foundation of the re­gio­nal eco­no­my.

“In Pres­cott-Rus­sell it’s 80 per cent agri­cul­tu­ral, so we de­fi­ni­te­ly have to pro­tect that,” said Ca­role La­vigne, eco­no­mic de­ve­lop­ment and tou­rism di­rec­tor for the Uni­ted Coun­ties of Pres­cott-Rus­sell (UCPR). “It’s ta­ken a lot of years to bring our agri­cul­ture to this le­vel. We don’t want to see that go down.”

The U.S. po­si­tion on NAFTA is out­li­ned in an 18-page do­cu­ment avai­lable on­line at https://us­tr.gov/sites/de­fault/files/files/ Press/Re­leases/NAFTAOb­jec­tives.pdf. Both Trump and mem­bers of the U.S. NAFTA ne­go­tia­ting team have in­di­ca­ted they want an end to res­tric­tions on Ame­ri­can dai­ry pro­ducts and other agri­cul­tu­ral ex­ports. That stance threa­tens Ca­na­da’s sup­ply ma­na­ge­ment po­li­cy which pro­tects dai­ry and egg pro­du­cers from dum­ping of fo­rei­gn milk and egg pro­ducts on­to the Ca­na­dian market and al­so sets li­mits on the use of fo­rei­gn milk pro­ducts in the lo­cal ma­nu­fac­ture of some items such as yo­gurt and ice cream.

“It’s de­fi­ni­te­ly the dai­ry sec­tor that has to be pro­tec­ted,” La­vigne said, ad­ding that the sup­ply ma­na­ge­ment system sa­fe­guards Ca­na­da’s dai­ry in­dus­try not just from dum­ping of U.S. pro­ducts on­to the market but al­so li­mits the amount of Eu­ro­pean cheese im­ports which might un­der­cut those from lo­cal ma­nu­fac­tu­rers like the St-Al­bert Cheese Fac­to­ry.

“The MPs know about our concerns,” said La­vigne. “Now let’s see how it’s going to work.”

Fran­cis Drouin, Li­be­ral MP for Glen­gar­ry-Pres­cott-Rus­sell, has sta­ted se­ve­ral times du­ring past in­ter­views that the sup­ply ma­na­ge­ment system is “off the table” whe­ne­ver there is any dis­cus­sion about re­vi­sing NAFTA. He re­pea­ted that po­si­tion du­ring an Aug. 18 interview in Haw­kes­bu­ry and al­so no­ted that Pre­sident Trump has a poor un­ders­tan­ding of just how com­pli­ca­ted ne­go­tia­ting a new NAFTA can be.

“Trump al­rea­dy tried to can­cel the NAFTA agree­ment,” Drouin said, “and then he was told by the go­ver­nors of 30 states that Ca­na­da was their num­ber one (trade) cus­to­mer.”

Drouin al­so no­ted that the U.S. is ap­proa­ching ano­ther per­iod of elec­tion cam­pai­gning when one-third of the seats in the House of Re­pre­sen­ta­tives and the Se­nate come up for re-elec­tion. That can work in Ca­na­da’s fa­vour du­ring NAFTA ne­go­tia­tions be­cause ma­ny in­cumbent se­na­tors and state re­pre­sen­ta­tives will want to reas­sure their consti­tuents that re­ne­go­tia­ting NAFTA will not threa­ten their eco­no­mic ties to Ca­na­da.

“We (Ca­na­da) are not in any hur­ry to ne­go­tiate, we’ve had our elec­tion,” Drouin said. “So we’re not going to ac­cept just any deal. It (NAFTA) needs to be im­pro­ved, we agree on that. But we’re put­ting on our Ca­na­da First hat.”

Drouin al­so no­ted that Fo­rei­gn Af­fairs Mi­nis­ter Ch­rys­tia Free­land has ex­pe­rience in ta­king a tough stand on trade ne­go­tia­tions. Last year du­ring the CETA talks on trade re­la­tions with Eu­rope, she wal­ked away from the ne­go­tia­ting table ra­ther than ac­cept de­mands that could have wea­ke­ned Ca­na­dian trade.

—pho­to ar­chives

Des pour­par­lers sont en cours pour la re­né­go­cia­tion de l’Ac­cord de libre-échange nord-amé­ri­cain (ALE­NA) entre le Ca­na­da, les États-Unis et le Mexique. Le pré­sident des États-Unis, Do­nald Trump, a af­fir­mé qu’il vou­lait sim­ple­ment « mo­di­fier » les sec­tions tou­chant les re­la­tions com­mer­ciales entre son pays et le Ca­na­da, mais la dé­lé­ga­tion des États-Unis dis­pose de 18 pages rem­plies de 100 de­mandes de ré­écri­ture du do­cu­ment de deux dé­cen­nies. Le pre­mier mi­nistre Jus­tin Trudeau et la mi­nistre des Af­faires étran­gères, Ch­rys­tia Free­land, ont dé­cla­ré que le Ca­na­da ver­rait une ré­vi­sion équi­table de l’ALE­NA. Mme Free­land a éga­le­ment pro­mis qu’elle était prête à « se re­ti­rer de la table », comme elle l’a fait pen­dant les né­go­cia­tions de l’AECC en Eu­rope l’an­née der­nière, si les de­mandes des États-Unis à la table de l’ALE­NA me­nacent la sou­ve­rai­ne­té et le com­merce du Ca­na­da.

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