Hope seen for Nafta deal, but Canada must quickly di­ver­sify mar­kets

The Nation - - BUSINESS -

CANADA’S TRADE min­is­ter has held out hope for a new con­ti­nen­tal trade deal, but with no clear time­line for reach­ing an ac­cord ex­pressed also a re­newed sense of ur­gency to di­ver­sify ex­port mar­kets.

“We must con­tinue to ne­go­ti­ate with our Amer­i­can part­ners be­cause the US is Canada’s largest eco­nomic part­ner,” Min­is­ter Francois-Philippe Cham­pagne said.

He added that there was “no dead­line” for wrap­ping up ne­go­ti­a­tions de­spite calls to con­clude a deal be­fore a July 1 Mex­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and US midterm elec­tions in Novem­ber.

“But at the same time, we must also di­ver­sify our mar­kets,” he con­tin­ued, re­call­ing that his gov­ern­ment is “work­ing ex­pe­di­tiously” and “as quickly as pos­si­ble” to rat­ify the Trans-Pa­cific Free Trade (TPP) with 10 other coun­tries.

Canada cur­rently sends about 75 per cent of its ex­ports to the United States.

Signed in March with­out the United States, the TPP would en­ter into force 60 days af­ter its rat­i­fi­ca­tion by at least six of the 11 sig­na­tory coun­tries (Aus­tralia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Ja­pan, Malaysia, Mex­ico, New Zealand, Peru, Sin­ga­pore and Viet­nam).

The Cana­dian par­lia­ment will be pre­sented a rat­i­fi­ca­tion bill on Thursday, but it seems un­likely to be passed be­fore par­lia­ment breaks for the sum­mer on June 22.

“We want to be part of the first group of coun­tries which have rat­i­fied the TPP be­cause we think it is im­por­tant to have first-mover ad­van­tage for our com­pa­nies,” Cham­pagne said.

In the mean­time, talks started last Au­gust to re­vamp the 1994 North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (Nafta) have bogged down amid ef­forts to sat­isfy US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­mands for bet­ter terms, in­clud­ing a larger share of US-made com­po­nents in North Amer­i­can au­tos and a sun­set clause.

No new rounds of Nafta talks are sched­uled but se­nior of­fi­cials from all three na­tions re­main in con­tact.

“We will al­ways be at the ne­go­ti­at­ing table to pro­mote a mod­ern part­ner­ship, a part­ner­ship that will cre­ate jobs on both sides of the bor­der,” Cham­pagne said.

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