Liberals failing on trade
Since the first settlers hit our shores, trade had been fundamental to driving commerce, economic opportunity and sustainability — especially with our neighbours to the south. In that context, the current state of Canada/u.s. relations, the reworking of NAFTA, and this past weekend’s G7 meetings in Quebec should raise serious concerns for us all.
Newfoundland and Labrador exports pulp and paper, oil, iron ore, fish (wild and farmed), and other commodities to the United States. Considering how much our economy has already slowed, we should be deeply concerned about a trade war. The consequences for us will not be good.
How did we get here? Well, the original message from the Federal government and the Liberal prime minister was that he had great relationships with the U.S. administration and the new president, and the Federal government had embarked on a “charm offensive” that would put Canada in a strong position for renegotiating NAFTA.
Unfortunately, Ottawa’s approach to date has failed dramatically.
As one example, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. That could significantly affect Newfoundland and Labrador, especially when it comes to iron ore production and new mine developments. Another example is the discussion on supply management related to dairy and other agricultural products. When the prime minister references the possibility of putting this on table, we need to ask questions about the potential impact on our local industries and economy.
In the recent sitting of the House, I asked the premier about the projected legal costs of hiring lawyers to fight tariffs on Newfoundland and Labrador products sold in the US. Some time ago, the estimate was over $500,000. The premier’s answer in April was that the figure had gone up and he would get the number.
We are still waiting for that. I also asked — in the event of U.S. tariffs — whether the premier would ask Ottawa, the signatory to NAFTA and other trade deals, to foot the legal bill for challenging the tariffs. The premier did not think that option would be pursued.