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Trudeau consults corporations, but not the public or First Nations, on upcoming NAFTA talks

While the United States prepares to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has chosen to consult with corporations, rather than the broader public or First Nations whose lands, waters and rights could be impacted by the new deal.

The Canadian Press reports, “The U.S. government hopes to take the first formal step in renegotiating NAFTA within the next couple of weeks, setting the stage for actual negotiations with Canada and Mexico later this year. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he hopes to advise Congress within two weeks of the Trump administration’s intention to renegotiate the quarter-century-old agreement.”

The article highlights, “That would begin a pre-negotiating consultation process of at least 90 days. U.S. law says that if the administration wants lawmakers to agree to a simple yes-or-no vote on a trade deal, it must consult with Congress throughout the process — before negotiations start; during negotiations; and before signing the deal.”

Presumably this means we could be hearing from the Trump administration, the Senate and the House of Representatives with respect to their objectives, priorities and red lines in the upcoming talks.

Earlier this week, Ross stated that Canada knows it will have to make “concessions” and that “the only question is what’s the magnitude, and what’s the form of the concessions.” And in January, Ross stated he had informed Canada that the US wants to negotiate on the rules of origin and the investor-state dispute settlement provision (which he feels gives too much power to Canada).

The Canadian Press also notes, “In Canada, there are guidelines requiring ministers to present memorandums to cabinet before trade talks. The government is also consulting with the private sector.”

While the Trudeau government is consulting with corporations, it is not consulting with the broader public or with First Nations. Maybe that’s because David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the US, has said he already has “a good sense of what would be in Canada’s interest”.

To tell Prime Minister Trudeau that his government needs to hold meaningful hearings with the public and First Nations — and not just with the private sector — please go to our online action alert, NAFTA renegotiations cannot be another backroom deal.

More than 10,000 people have already sent this message to Trudeau, but more pressure is needed for him to be open, transparent and accountable in these talks.