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Trudeau government sets July 18 as deadline for public input on NAFTA renegotiation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is well-known for unexpectedly appearing in photos (such as when he recently jogged past high school students in Vancouver), but he is less known for meaningful public consultations on key issues such as NAFTA.

After repeated requests, the Trudeau government has finally announced a minimal and hard to find online consultation on the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Government of Canada says on this web-page, “We want to hear from you. We need to hear your ideas, your experiences, and your priorities in these consultations. Engaging with Canadians will be an important factor in informing the Government’s positions and proposals in any renegotiation of NAFTA. It will also serve to determine Canada’s objectives and approach to the negotiations. We are interested in hearing about what aspects or elements of NAFTA have worked well for Canadians and should remain as is and where changes or improvements could be desirable.”

To facilitate your input to the government, we’ve now added NAFTA-Consultations-ALENA@international.gc.ca to our existing action alert on NAFTA that has already generated 12,013 letters to the Prime Minister. That way, you can easily send a letter – that you can amend or personalize – to this consultation.

The government has also set up this online consultation form that asks these five questions:

  1. In your view, what should be a priority for the Government of Canada in the renegotiation of NAFTA (e.g. trade areas, practices, issues)?

  2. Are there elements of NAFTA that are working well and should be preserved or improved upon?

  3. Are you aware of any trade practices, laws or regulations in the United States, and/or in Mexico, that undermine or could undermine meaningful market access for Canadian goods and services?

  4. Are there any new issues that you believe should be incorporated into NAFTA, or are there issues that you believe should be expanded upon to reflect advancements since NAFTA was originally negotiated?

  5. Other comments?

We are disappointed that the Trudeau government does not appear to be planning extensive public hearings on this critical issue. The Government’s website only notes, “Participate in a consultation event. A list of upcoming and past consultation activities will be made available as events are confirmed.”

As we ask for you to send your comments, we also understand that the Trudeau government’s record of listening to public input on trade is weak.

While Global Affairs did seek public input on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade did hold public hearings, that public input was largely ignored.

The Standing Committee’s report provided no breakdown of the nearly 50,000 e-mails it received on this issue, nor does it note that every individual who spoke at their public hearings expressed concern or opposition to the deal. Furthermore, even though Global Affairs received more than 30,000 submissions on this issue, Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne has not provided an analysis of those public comments. Instead, Champagne has committed to pursuing a TPP agreement (without the United States) that could be concluded by November 10-11 of this year.

Still, public input and accountability should be fundamental aspects of how the federal government conducts itself on all matters.

And we will be pressing the Trudeau government for a breakdown on how many responses it received and a summary of those comments.

The renegotiation of NAFTA could begin as early as August 16.

Please respond to our action alert today.