Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s goals for new NAFTA pact point to tough ne­go­ti­a­tions ahead

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants Canada to in­crease on­line duty-free limit by 4,000 per cent

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS Spec­ta­tor’s view: A13

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­leased its broad goals for a new North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment in mostly vague lan­guage that of­fers just enough spe­cific clues to point to po­ten­tially tough ne­go­ti­a­tions ahead.

The U.S. says it wants more ex­ports of its dairy prod­ucts, wine and grains; freer trade in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and on­line pur­chases; new rules on cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion; an over­haul of the dis­pute-set­tle­ment sys­tem; and more ac­cess for U.S. banks abroad.

A Wash­ing­ton-based trade ex­pert who ad­vises the Cana­dian govern­ment didn’t flinch when asked what this means for NAFTA talks, which are sched­uled to start next month: “Longer, rather than shorter,” said Eric Miller, a con­sul­tant at Rideau Po­tomac who ad­vises In­dus­try Canada.

“It will be pretty in­tense and hard-fought . ... Don’t ex­pect it to be fin­ished in less than eight months,” Miller said. “And ex­pect Canada to have to fight hard for is­sues it cares about.”

Some of the is­sues might be hotly de­bated, even be­tween Cana­di­ans them­selves. For ex­am­ple, the de­mand on on­line pur­chases could pit bar­gain-hunt­ing Cana­dian con­sumers against bricks-and-mor­tar shops. The U.S. wants to in­crease the amount Cana­di­ans can buy on­line without pay­ing an im­port tax, by 4,000 per cent.

Canada has one of the world’s most puni­tive duty sys­tems for on­line shop­pers. It will be urged to in­crease its duty-free limit to $800 from its cur­rent $20, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment re­leased Mon­day by the U.S. trade czar.

The 16-page list con­tains some el­e­ments that might ap­pear con­tra­dic­tory or con­fus­ing.

It says the U.S. will de­mand more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can sup­pli­ers for govern­ment pro­cure­ment abroad, such as con­struc­tion projects. But, in the next breath, it in­sists on pre­serv­ing Buy Amer­i­can rules that limit such rights for for­eign­ers. Why we need to care

Of that con­tra­dic­tion, Miller joked: “It’s called the mer­can­tilist dream — we want you to open to us, but we don’t want to open up to you.”

Miller added that it was more likely a sig­nal the United States wants Canada to stop de­mand­ing greater ac­cess to con­tracts at the state and lo­cal level.

There is a vaguely worded sec­tion on bank­ing. It calls for more op­por­tu­ni­ties for U.S. fi­nan­cialser­vice providers, which Miller said could be in­ter­preted as a call for Canada to ac­cept U.S. deposit-tak­ing banks.

It also de­mands the elim­i­na­tion of the dis­pute­set­tle­ment sys­tem that has ruled in favour of Canada on soft­wood lum­ber.

How­ever, it’s un­clear how the U.S. would re­place Chap­ter 19 — which, to Canada, was a make-or-break is­sue in the orig­i­nal 1980s trade talks.

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