Lib­er­als fail­ing on trade

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial -

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.

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