No rush on NAFTA

Canada’s U.S. am­bas­sador wants quick deal but won’t take bad one

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Canada’s am­bas­sador to the United States says he is push­ing hard for a timely res­o­lu­tion on the NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion, but he won’t ac­cept a bad deal to get it.

“We’ve heard from Cana­dian busi­ness (and) from the prov­inces that there’s a cer­tain amount of un­cer­tainty that is caus­ing peo­ple to per­haps de­lay in­vest­ments,” David MacNaughton said Tues­day on the open­ing day of the pre­miers an­nual sum­mer meet­ing.

“Ob­vi­ously if we could get a clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the trad­ing re­la­tion­ship sooner rather than later it would be bet­ter, but hav­ing said that we’re not go­ing to rush into a bad deal.

“We’re ready to sit down and work on this ne­go­ti­a­tion for as long as it takes to get some­thing that is go­ing to be good for Cana­di­ans.”

MacNaughton made the com­ments prior to brief­ing the lead­ers of Canada’s prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries on trade and the up­com­ing NAFTA talks.

In May, U.S. Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion gave no­tice it wants to rene­go­ti­ate the 23-year-old tri­par­tite North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. The pres­i­dent says it is ob­so­lete and un­fair to Amer­i­can work­ers.

On Mon­day, the U.S. re­leased a list of what it wishes to see changed when talks be­gin next month.

The U.S. wants more ex­ports of its dairy and other agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, free trade in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion and on­line pur­chases, and the elim­i­na­tion of in­de­pen­dent dis­pute res­o­lu­tion pan­els, which have ruled in Canada’s favour on con­tentious is­sues such as soft­wood lum­ber.

MacNaughton said some form of ex­ter­nal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion is crit­i­cal.

“Whether or not that dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism can be im­proved or mod­ern­ized, I think we’re up for dis­cus­sions around that, but there needs to be some kind of a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism as part of the agree­ment.”

MacNaughton said re­cent dis­cus­sions with U.S. busi­ness lead­ers, state gov­er­nors and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sug­gest ev­ery­one is seek­ing a fair and bal­anced deal. But if the U.S. wants Canada to loosen up on sub­si­dies and pro­tec­tion­ist rules, the am­bas­sador says bring it on.

“The U.S. dairy in­dus­try is heav­ily sub­si­dized and heav­ily pro­tected, as is their sugar in­dus­try and a num­ber of other ar­eas, so if they want to start talk­ing about open­ing up agri­cul­tural mar­kets we’re happy to talk about them open­ing up theirs.”

Que­bec Pre­mier Philippe Couil­lard said given that the U.S. list of NAFTA con­cerns is 16 pages long, Cana­di­ans should not ex­pect a res­o­lu­tion any­time soon.

“It would be ex­tremely un­likely that such a wide, broad list of sub­jects could be set­tled in a mat­ter of months,” Couil­lard said

“It will take years. It’s a long, long ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne said she has spo­ken to 22 state gov­er­nors as well as with fed­eral law­mak­ers. The pre­vail­ing feel­ing on both sides of the border, she said, is that no harm be done to the trade agree­ment.

“What I have found in the United States is that there’s a very deep un­der­stand­ing among lead­ers there that the con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween our economies is im­por­tant for both of us,” said Wynne.

Man­i­toba Pre­mier Brian Pal­lis­ter said pre­miers need to con­tinue to reach out to U.S. gov­er­nors and law­mak­ers to make the case for cross-border trade.

“There’s tremen­dous strength in work­ing to­gether and build­ing things to­gether,” said Pal­lis­ter.

CP PHOTO

Al­berta Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley and Canada’s am­bas­sador to the U.S. David MacNaughton talk dur­ing the Coun­cil of Fed­er­a­tion meet­ings in Ed­mon­ton Alta., Tues­day.

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