Waterloo Region Record

Ambrose disagrees with assertion that Trudeau caved on NAFTA


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.

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.

“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.

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