President-elect Donald J. Trump has now nominated Robert Lighthizer, who was on the team that negotiated the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement in 1988, as the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
The Office of the USTR is the government agency responsible for conducting trade negotiations and developing trade policies for the president. As the US Trade Representative, Lighthizer would play a lead role in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
CBC reports, “Canada should brace for a tougher, hard-line approach to trade negotiations with the U.S. under Donald Trump’s new pick to front the trade file, experts warn. Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, said he wasn’t surprised by today’s appointment of ‘trade hawk’ Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative because he is aligned with the president-elect’s protectionist views. [Klein says], ‘I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of compromise. I think you’re going to see a strong view that this is the U.S. interest, and if you don’t like it, too bad.'”
The Canadian Press adds, “Lawrence Herman, an international trade lawyer who represented Canada abroad, including at the World Trade Organization, [says], ‘Whether we’re sideswiped or intentionally targeted I think there’s going to be very tough days ahead on Canada-U.S. trade with Mr. Trump and his trade team.’ [Among various concerns to consider, Herman adds] Trump could also reactivate measures to protect [American] beef farmers, challenge Canada’s supply management of dairy and object to provincial liquor and beer import monopolies.”
And The Globe and Mail notes, “Statements by U.S. transition officials and tweets by the president-elect [November 3] are bringing into question the future of jobs and exports from Canada’s auto industry, as Trump warns that U.S. companies should not be allowed to sell internationally manufactured cars in the U.S. market without penalty. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked by The Globe and Mail what the naming of a new trade official and Mr. Trump’s comments about the auto industry meant for Canadian manufacturers. [Trump has] been very clear throughout the campaign, that his goal is to put America first…’, [replied Spicer].”
Meanwhile, David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the US, says, “We have a good sense of what would be in Canada’s interest…. (But) the areas we need to focus on — and I think we are focusing on — is where is it not just in Canada’s interest, but in Canada and the United States’ interest…” But given the very clear threats Canada faces in these negotiations, it is worrisome that the Trudeau government has not publicly discussed its priorities, its red lines (on public interest measures it will not concede), nor committed to any public consultation process prior to or during these talks.
And while news reports have indicated that both Trump and Trudeau support the building of 830,000 barrel per day Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, another shared priority for the prime minister and the president could be an infrastructure privatization bank, such as the one now being launched in Canada.
The Canadian Press reports, “Carlo Dade, director of the Canada West Foundation’s Centre for Trade & Investment Policy, [says] one area where Canada could find a receptive ear is its proposal for a North American infrastructure bank that could help fund completion of large construction projects on both sides of the border.” Trump’s platform called for “investments in transportation, clean water, a modern and reliable electricity grid, telecommunications, security infrastructure, and other pressing domestic infrastructure needs” that would “leverage new revenues and work with financing authorities, public-private partnerships, and other prudent funding opportunities”.
The Council of Canadians has called for:
1- transparency through the entirety of the negotiations – especially in regards to what Trudeau is conceding to Trump to maintain NAFTA
2- removal of the controversial Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision
3- removal of all references to water in NAFTA as a good, service or investment, unless to allow for the specific protection or exclusion of water
4- getting a Mexican exemption from NAFTA’s energy proportionality rule in order to meet our Paris climate commitments
5- a North American Auto Pact to ensure that each country receives a proportional share of employment and investment, and that workers have good jobs and fair wages
6- strengthening the exemption of medicare in NAFTA to allow for an expansion of public health care in areas including pharmacare.
For numerous blogs on these demands, please see our NAFTA campaign web-page here.