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NAFTA could be a ballot box issue in the October 2019 federal election

1993 again?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could very well be a key federal election issue in October 2019 — just as the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement was a ballot box issue in the November 1988 federal election and NAFTA was a pivotal issue in the October 1993 federal election.

Evan Solomon writes, “Here we go again. Another federal election that will hinge on free trade. This is not so much a prediction as it is a simple matter of following the timelines. By 2019, the next federal election, the NAFTA re-negotiations will either be in the dramatic end game or the very contentious ratification phase.”

He adds, “The Liberal government will be consumed by the deal, as it already is today. The Conservatives and the NDP will both have new leaders desperate to define themselves by the biggest economic deal of a  generation. What to protect and what to give up? Unions will want a new deal on car manufacturing and will try to stick it to Mexico. Dairy farmers in Quebec will be fighting for supply management. You will hear the phrase ‘country of label origins’ so often it will sound like the name of a band. Softwood lumber, beef, pharmaceuticals—oh, the lawyers are already priapic at the possibilities.”

Solomon quotes former diplomat Colin Robertson who says, “At the earliest I think the renegotiation—with or without Mexico—will take at least a year, probably 19 months. After that we have to go for ratification, which adds on another year plus. My guess is that NAFTA, or whatever we call it, doesn’t get wrapped up until spring or summer 2019, meaning it will be front and centre in our October 2019 election.”

Solomon elaborates, “Congress needs 180 days’ warning before signing the deal and another 105 days for the International Trade Commission to look over the deal and put out a report. Then there is another 6o-day period for amendments. That’s already 435 days, deep into 2018—and that’s if everything goes smoothly. No serious person thinks it will go smoothly, even if Congress tries to fast-track the timelines. Contentious issues like softwood lumber, automobiles and, wait for it, water, could blow this thing up. …Robertson points out, the implementation and ratification will take another year-plus.”

Solomon concludes, “Might as well get ready now and pencil in 2019 as another election fought over free trade [what was won, what was lost, what concessions were made, what victories were gained].”

The next federal election — which we still hope will be held using proportional representation — is scheduled for October 21, 2019.

For our commentary on NAFTA, please click here.