Tories, NDP seek­ing NAFTA pri­or­i­ties

Op­po­si­tion wants three min­is­ters to speak be­fore trade com­mit­tee

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOAN BRY­DEN

OT­TAWA — Con­ser­va­tives and New Democrats are join­ing forces in a bid to pres­sure the Trudeau gov­ern­ment to re­veal its pri­or­i­ties for the im­mi­nent rene­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Four MPs from both par­ties sent a joint let­ter Tues­day to the clerk of the Com­mons in­ter­na­tional trade com­mit­tee, re­quest­ing that an emer­gency meet­ing be held to grill three cab­i­net min­is­ters on Canada’s ne­go­ti­at­ing ob­jec­tives and “ex­pected pos­i­tive out­comes” of the rene­go­ti­a­tion, which is to be­gin in mid-Au­gust.

The com­mit­tee, on which Lib­er­als hold the ma­jor­ity, is now sched­uled to meet Fri­day to de­cide whether to ac­cede to the re­quest. If mem­bers agree, the min­is­ters could be called to tes­tify im­me­di­ately.

In­sid­ers said that For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land, the lead min­is­ter on NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions, is will­ing to ap­pear be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions start next month but is un­likely to be avail­able as early as Fri­day. The re­quest comes one day af­ter the United States dis­closed its ne­go­ti­at­ing ob­jec­tives, as is re­quired un­der Amer­i­can law. There is no equiv­a­lent re­quire­ment in Canada and the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has so far re­fused to go into any de­tail about its pri­or­i­ties, main­tain­ing that it’s not help­ful to ne­go­ti­ate in pub­lic.

But the op­po­si­tion par­ties want to force the gov­ern­ment’s hand by invit­ing three key min­is­ters to tes­tify at an emer­gency com­mit­tee meet­ing — Free­land, In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois-Philippe Cham­pagne and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau.

Conservative MP Randy Hoback, one of the four com­mit­tee mem­bers re­quest­ing the emer­gency meet­ing, said the meet­ing is nec­es­sary to make sure the gov­ern­ment has a game plan for ne­go­ti­a­tions, that they’ve iden­ti­fied the is­sues Cana­di­ans want to see on the bar­gain­ing table and those they don’t want on the table.

“We’re not ask­ing them to ne­go­ti­ate in pub­lic,” he said in an in­ter­view.

Hoback said the gov­ern­ment could at least iden­tify “what are the do-not-touch items.”

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau took a step in that di­rec­tion Tues­day, in­di­cat­ing that he won’t bar­gain away Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem for dairy and poul­try prod­ucts, which U.S. Pres­i­dent Donald Trump has re­peat­edly tar­geted as un­fair sub­si­diza­tion.

“We have al­ways de­fended sup­ply man­age­ment. It’s a sys­tem that works,” Trudeau said.

ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land in­di­cates says she will speak to trade com­mit­tee.

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