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Opinion: Canada must win exemption from NAFTA’s proportionality rule

TrumpOp-ed by Gordon Laxer, published in the Vancouver Sun, June 23, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump is known for tweeting alternative facts. But occasionally, perhaps inadvertently, his tweets conform to real facts. When he approved the building of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, Trump said it would “reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Given that the pipeline would be filled with mainly Alberta bitumen, Trump revealed that he thinks Canadian oil is American oil.

Unfortunately, it’s virtually true. NAFTA’s proportionality rule (Article 605) gives Washington, D.C., virtually unlimited, first access to most of Canada’s oil and natural gas.

Canadian discussions of the upcoming NAFTA talks have so far focused almost exclusively on dairy farming, softwood lumber, buy-American purchasing policies and trade-dispute panels. They’re important issues, but Canada is playing defence on them. A hockey team that only plays defence will lose. Going up against a U.S. president who boasts that he is the winner who takes all, Canada must lead with its own demands.

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