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Trump’s NAFTA demands put environmental and safety standards at further risk

Some details are beginning to emerge in terms of what President-elect Donald J. Trump could be seeking in the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Globe and Mail reports, “[A transition team] memo says on the first day he takes office – Jan. 20, 2017 – he would order the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to study the ramifications of withdrawing from NAFTA and what would be required legislatively to do so. The memo also says Mr. Trump would then have the U.S. trade representative, his cabinet appointee in this area, notify Canada and Mexico that the United States intends to propose amendments to the accord that could include lumber and country-of-origin labelling. Other areas might include currency manipulation as well as environmental and safety standards.”

Country of origin labelling

The report notes, “The country-of-origin dispute centres on U.S. meat labelling rules that require foreign beef and pork to be sold with stickers detailing its origin. U.S. feedlots and packing plants are also required to keep Canadian livestock and meat separate. The World Trade Organization as recently as last year said the U.S. labelling rules violate international trade rules and called for their removal.”

Softwood lumber

The article adds, “U.S. forestry companies want to limit Canadian timber shipments to the United States and allege provinces subsidize companies through below-market rates for harvesting from Crown land. Adding softwood to NAFTA would presumably mean setting a quota or limit for Canadian timber shipments.”

Currency manipulation

The Globe and Mail article does not expand on this point, but this appears to be mostly related to China. CNN notes, “By Day 100, the plan says, Trump would continue NAFTA renegotiations, would pursue cracking down on China by seeing if they could be labeled a currency manipulator and through bilateral trade negotiations. He would also bring the intelligence community into the trade world.”

Environmental standards

The Globe and Mail does not detail what this would mean, but this could be significant. BainbridgeGa.com notes that Trump’s 100-day action plan says, “I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.” The Guardian adds, “The future of America’s basic environmental protection has been thrown into doubt, with a host of fossil fuel executives and climate change skeptics set to get key roles in Donald Trump’s new administration, including a potential return to political life for Sarah Palin [a vocal proponent of oil and gas drilling].”

Safety standards

It’s not clear if this is in relation to food, but this past September the Trump campaign called for Food and Drug Administration regulations to be eliminated. The campaign’s fact sheet (later removed from their website) stated, “The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food. …The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.”

A new US-Canada FTA?

CNN also reports, “The [transition team] memo notes caveats, including that there could be negative consequences of withdrawing from NAFTA. But the document also notes those impacts could be mitigated if the US were to pursue bilateral trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a telephone call with Trump shortly after his upset win on November 8. Commenting on their conversation, Trudeau noted, “It was a strong beginning to what will be a constructive relationship. …If Americans want to talk about NAFTA, I’m happy to talk about it.”