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NAFTA negotiations appear imminent, Trump could also visit Canada soon

The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) now appears imminent.

Reuters reports, “U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he plans talks soon with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump said he would be meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to begin work on overhauling the deal.”

The CTV News report quotes Trump stating, “We have set up meetings with the prime minister of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister May will be coming over the United States shortly. We’re also meeting with the prime minister of Canada. And we will be meeting with the president of Mexico, who I know, and we’re going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA. Anybody ever hear of NAFTA? I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. We’re going to start renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border.”

That article adds, “During a congratulatory phone call on Nov. 9, the day after the U.S. presidential election, Trudeau invited Trump to visit Canada ‘at his earliest opportunity’, according to the PMO. It is traditional for U.S. presidents to make their first foreign trip to Canada, which is the United States’ biggest trading partner.”

Then-US president Barack Obama first visited Ottawa in February 2009, just weeks after his inauguration.

Bloomberg notes, “The president is due to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto this month. Trudeau and Trump have committed to meeting soon but haven’t yet announced a date.”

That article also highlights that Trudeau’s cabinet will be meeting on January 23-24. It reports, “Trudeau, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and other top Liberal lawmakers convene in Calgary for talks beginning Monday to figure out how to limit losses from any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”

Part of the federal government’s strategy could be bilateral agreements with the US and Mexico rather than the trilateral NAFTA. The Globe and Mail reports, “The Liberal government is weighing whether new trade deals with United States should exclude Mexico as Canada seeks to avoid ‘collateral damage’ from Trump’s preoccupation with America’s southern neighbour.”

In terms of negotiating positions (and strength), it’s clear the Trudeau government wants to maintain NAFTA while the Trump administration appears willing to walk away from it. On Friday, Whitehouse.gov posted, “If our partners refuse a renegotiation, that gives American workers a fair deal, then the president will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.”

The Council of Canadians calls for:

1- transparency through the entirety of the negotiations – especially in regards to what Trudeau is conceding to Trump to maintain NAFTA

2- meaningful consultations with the general public, as well as consultations and consent from First Nations

3- removal of the controversial Chapter 11 investor-state provision

4- 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

5- an exemption from NAFTA’s energy proportionality rule in order to meet our Paris climate commitments

6- 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

7- strengthening the exemption of medicare in NAFTA to allow for an expansion of public health care in areas including pharmacare.

The Trudeau government had already been meeting with the Trump team prior to the inauguration without making public what has been discussed (or conceded). Earlier this month, CTV reported, “Trudeau’s top advisers have had about a dozen high-level meetings with Trump’s most trusted officials. The two sides have met 10 or 12 times since the U.S. election, and as recently as Tuesday [January 3] — a five-hour meeting between Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, his principal secretary Gerry Butts, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.”