Trudeau didn’t cave to U.S. in trade talks: Am­brose

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Joan BRYDEN

OTTAWA — The Con­ser­va­tives’ former leader doesn’t agree with the cur­rent leader’s as­ser­tion that Canada got taken to the clean­ers by Don­ald Trump on the rene­go­ti­ated NAFTA.

Rona Am­brose, who was in­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader af­ter the party’s 2015 elec­tion de­feat, says Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau did make some con­ces­sions to get a deal – par­tic­u­larly of­fer­ing up some limited ac­cess to Canada’s sup­ply-man­aged dairy sec­tor – but also made some im­por­tant gains.

“I think at the end of the day, we came out do­ing well,” she said in an in­ter­view Tues­day.

An­drew Scheer, who took over the Con­ser­va­tive helm from Am­brose in 2017, has called the new NAFTA a “his­toric hu­mil­i­a­tion” and has ac­cused Trudeau of “ca­pit­u­lat­ing” in the face of the mer­cu­rial U.S. pres­i­dent’s threats to scrap NAFTA al­to­gether if he didn’t get a new con­ti­nen­tal trade deal favour­ing the United States.

Scheer raised the is­sue again Tues­day in a state­ment chal­leng­ing Trudeau to take part in a lead­ers’ de­bate on for­eign pol­icy sched­uled for Oct. 1, less than three weeks be­fore the Oct. 21 fed­eral elec­tion.

“(Trudeau) has been in­cred­i­bly weak on the world stage – back­ing down to Don­ald Trump on NAFTA, hu­mil­i­at­ing Canada and se­verely dam­ag­ing re­la­tions with In­dia and fail­ing to stand up for Canada’s in­ter­ests in China,” he said.

Scheer’s as­sess­ment of the new NAFTA is not shared by Am­brose, who was a mem­ber of a panel Trudeau ap­pointed to pro­vide ad­vice and help cre­ate a united multi-party front dur­ing the tur­bu­lent ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“I think even the most crit­i­cal eco­nomic anal­y­sis shows that, in terms of any loss of GDP, it’s a wash be­tween the U.S. and Canada and Mex­ico gets hardest hit,” she said.

One as­sess­ment by the C.D. Howe In­sti­tute found that all three coun­tries will be worse off if the treaty is ap­proved by their leg­is­la­tures and comes into force: the U.S. econ­omy will be 0.1 per cent smaller than it oth­er­wise would have been, the Cana­dian econ­omy 0.4 per cent smaller, and the Mex­i­can econ­omy 0.79 per cent smaller. The ef­fects are pri­mar­ily be­cause of U.S. ef­forts to get more pro­tec­tions for its man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, the anal­y­sis found.

“Yes, we gave up some ac­cess (in the dairy sec­tor) but we have to re­mem­ber what we got in re­turn, which was Chap­ter 19 ... That was a big one for us, for Canada,” Am­brose said.

Chap­ter 19 lays out the trade agree­ment’s dis­pute-res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism and is, in Am­brose’s view, “the heart of the deal for Canada.” Trump was de­ter­mined to scrap it and al­low Amer­i­can courts to judge trade dis­putes in fu­ture but the Trudeau gov­ern­ment held firm that some kind of in­de­pen­dent dis­put­eres­o­lu­tion sys­tem must be part of the deal.

“It wasn’t an idle threat (from Trump),” said Am­brose. “They were ex­tremely crit­i­cal of Chap­ter 19 and I think right up to the last minute it was their in­tent to scrap it.”

In ad­di­tion, Am­brose said Canada scored suc­cess on hav­ing in­ter­na­tional labour stan­dards and en­vi­ron­men­tal principles en­trenched in the deal.

Am­brose said Scheer’s crit­i­cism of the dairy con­ces­sion is con­sis­tent with his strong sup­port for sup­ply man­age­ment. Dairy farm­ers were in­stru­men­tal in his lead­er­ship vic­tory over Maxime Bernier, who ad­vo­cated dis­man­tling sup­ply man­age­ment and has now left the Tories to found his own party.

Scheer, who has dubbed the new trade pact NAFTA 0.5, has also crit­i­cized the deal for extending patent pro­tec­tion for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which could drive up the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs. He’s also main­tained the deal makes Cana­dian au­tomak­ers less com­pet­i­tive and that it gives the U.S. “un­prece­dented” say over Cana­dian ne­go­ti­a­tions with fu­ture po­ten­tial trade part­ners.

“The prime min­is­ter had a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter deal and he failed,” Scheer told the House of Com­mons last May. “He gave Don­ald Trump every­thing the pres­i­dent wanted and more.”

But Am­brose said she doesn’t think Canada was out­ma­noeu­vred by Trump.

“No. I think at the end of the day, there’s three par­ties, every­one gained a lit­tle and every­one gave up a lit­tle. That’s the na­ture of a ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

Former Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter James Moore, who also served on Trudeau’s NAFTA ad­vi­sory panel, re­fused to com­ment on Scheer’s con­tention that Trudeau caved in to Trump.

“It’s a fair ques­tion, it’s a rea­son­able story but I’m not go­ing to get sucked into the elec­tion,” Moore said in an in­ter­view.

AM­BROSE

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