I was asked recently what I thought would be one the most pressing political issues in 2018.
Although my list of possible answers to that question is a lengthy one ultimately I believe that the future of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, may well be Canada’s most pressing concerns. Even the Prime Minister is quoted as suggesting that the unpredictability of NAFTA keeps him awake at night.
The concern is an understandable one.
NAFTA represents some big numbers. In 2015, Canada-U.S. trade in goods and services reached close to $881 billion. The United States is the number one destination for Canadian merchandise exports. Close to 80 per cent of all Canadian exports end up in the US.
Between 1993 and 2015 Canadian merchandise exports to USA increased annually at a rate of almost 4.6 percent. I could continue citing many significant numbers but more importantly we have to look beyond the numbers.
Ultimately these numbers relate to jobs. As part of my work as a Member of Parliament, I often visit with many small, medium and even large scale private employers. It is increasingly common to find goods and service providers that have found lucrative markets somewhere in the United States.
I mention private sector employers because we must never forget it is the private sector that pays for the public sector.
Recently at a public forum in Sackville, Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Trudeau called the United States an “unruly neighbor.”
Also this week Canada initiated a WTO (World Trade Organization) complaint against the United States on the eve of the next round of NAFTA negotiations. In response the United States has called this WTO complaint a “broad and ill-advised attack”.
These actions have led to significant amounts of speculation on the future of the NAFTA agreement.
One of the additional challenges has been the Prime Minister’s insistence that trade deals should be based on “progressive trade” and include language around topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights.
This begs the question – would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?
So far the USA, China and other TransPacific Partnership (TPP) member nations have either rejected outright or raised concerns about this approach to trade.
With Canada being unable to advance further trade relations in other markets, there is now greater pressure for success in the NAFTA negotiations.
My question this week- do you believe the Prime Minister should abandon the demand to include “progressive trade” language in trade negotiations or do you view this as something that Canada should be steadfast on?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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