Trudeau, Wynne as­sured that NAFTA won’t be blown up

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA PROV­I­DENCE, R.I. —

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment has got what it wanted dur­ing U.S. meet­ings this week: clear, pub­lic as­sur­ances from pow­er­ful Repub­li­can politi­cians that the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment will be pre­served.

Those sooth­ing mes­sages came just days be­fore the U.S. gov­ern­ment is set to re­lease its po­si­tions for NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions, which are sched­uled to be­gin next month un­der the shadow of in­ter­mit­tent threats by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to rip up the three-coun­try deal.

Those re­as­sur­ances didn’t just come from the state gov­er­nors gath­ered in Rhode Is­land for their sum­mer meet­ings. They also came from Trump’s vice-pres­i­dent. In a speech to dozens of state gov­er­nors, Mike Pence promised a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau was seated in the room — he ap­plauded the re­marks.

“We will mod­ern­ize NAFTA for the 21st cen­tury so that it is a win-win-win for all of our trad­ing part­ners in North Amer­ica,” Pence said, as Trudeau clapped and For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land took notes through­out the speech.

“Pres­i­dent Trump rec­og­nizes that ev­ery trade re­la­tion­ship can im­prove and ... we’re look­ing for­ward to bring­ing NAFTA into the fu­ture in a way that will equally ben­e­fit both our coun­tries.”

Trudeau be­came the first for­eign leader to ad­dress the an­nual gov­er­nors’ gath­er­ing. It was the cul­mi­na­tion of a months-long Cana­dian strat­egy of reach­ing out to gov­er­nors in 11 po­lit­i­cally im­por­tant states, to en­cour­age them to speak up in de­fence of NAFTA.

The prime min­is­ter said he was grat­i­fied by the re­sponse from var­i­ous lev­els of gov­ern­ment and urged more trade, not less: “We must get this right,” Trudeau said.

“Some­times get­ting it right means re­fus­ing to take the po­lit­i­cally tempt­ing short­cuts. More trade bar­ri­ers, more lo­cal-con­tent pro­vi­sions, more pref­er­en­tial ac­cess for home­grown play­ers in gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment, for ex­am­ple, does not help work­ing fam­i­lies over the long term, or even the mid-term. “Such poli­cies kill growth.” He found a re­cep­tive au­di­ence. The Repub­li­can gover­nor of Ken­tucky dis­missed as ab­surd the no­tion that his coun­try might im­pose trade bar­ri­ers, like the idea of a bor­der tax be­ing sug­gested by some peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton.

Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker left his meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing dif­fer­ences over dairy pol­icy, but he down­played the idea that any sin­gle ir­ri­tant could cause the dis­man­tling of the three-coun­try trade pact.

“I don’t think you need to blow it up. I think it needs to be im­proved,” Walker told re­porters.

Trudeau met the gov­er­nors of five states — Ken­tucky, Wis­con­sin, Rhode Is­land, Iowa and Colorado. He was as­sisted by a broader del­e­ga­tion that in­clud­ing On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne. She said she’s leav­ing these meet­ings more con­fi­dent.

RYAN REMIORZ, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets with U.S. Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence at the Na­tional Gov­er­nors’ As­so­ci­a­tion meet­ing Fri­day.

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