The Telegram (St. John's)

Leslie: sharing NAFTA positions ‘illogical’

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It would not make any sense for the Liberal government to divulge what they hope to get out of a new North American Free Trade Agreement, said Andrew Leslie, the parliament­ary secretary for Canada-u.s. relations.

“It’s illogical to unmask and to lay down detailed objectives when we don’t have to,’’ Leslie said Friday.

“What we’d rather do is analyze what they’ve laid down — no real surprises there — figure out where we can negotiate, what we can probably push ahead or hold the line on and take it from there,’’ he said.

The administra­tion of U.S. President Donald Trump released an 18-page summary of its objectives for the new NAFTA on Monday, as required by U.S. law.

There are no such rules forcing the Canadian government to do the same, but Conservati­ves and New Democrats teamed up to ask that several cabinet ministers appear before an emergency summer meeting of the House of Commons trade committee to do just that.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has agreed to attend, alongside officials, on Aug. 14 _ two days before the first round of negotiatio­ns between the U.S., Canada and Mexico begin in Washington, D.C.

Leslie said Freeland can be expected to outline approaches, rather than share detailed objectives, to avoid “giving up a negotiatin­g advantage.’’

When it comes to the overall approach Canada will take, Leslie said it is akin to what U.S. Vice-president Mike Pence said in a speech when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Rhode Island last week: a “win-winwin’’ for all three of the trading partners.

The American NAFTA objectives do not always appear to take that approach.

They say the U.S. government will insist on maintainin­g “Buy American’’ rules that limit opportunit­ies to foreigners, while at the same time demanding more opportunit­ies for American suppliers to bid on government procuremen­t contracts in Canada and Mexico.

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