Skip to content

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says Canada will need to make NAFTA concessions

Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross.

The Council of Canadians has been mobilizing people across the country to send a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

More than 10,000 people have responded to our online action alert calling on Trudeau to be open and transparent with the public on these talks.

Now US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says, “The Mexicans know, the Canadians know, everybody knows, times are different. …And they all know they’re going to have to make concessions. The only question is what’s the magnitude, and what’s the form of the concessions.”

Ross hasn’t specified what those concessions would be, but Trudeau government officials have been meeting regularly with Trump administration officials in the lead-up to the formal start of the talks and may well have a sense about what the Americans will be demanding from us.

In January, The Globe and Mail reported, “[Ross] has informed Canada that rules of origin and independent dispute tribunals will be central to talks aimed at resetting NAFTA.” The investor-state dispute panels are “on Mr. Ross’s radar” given he believes “these independent panels are unaccountable and give too much power to Mexico and Canada”. This despite the fact that the United States has never lost a NAFTA investor-state case or paid any compensation to Canadian or Mexican companies, while Canada has paid $170 million and Mexico $204 million in lost or settled claims.

The Canadian Press also reports, “Ross has made no secret of his desire to adjust rules of origin for tariff-free vehicles, to bring the production of auto parts closer to home. What’s unclear is whether those changes would be aimed simply at reducing imports of parts from Asia, or from the North American neighbours.”

Trump is expected to signal to the US Congress by mid-March that he intends to renegotiate NAFTA, which would launch a 90-day review period. That means formal talks could begin as soon as June 15, though ‘unofficial’ talks have been underway for months and Ross now hints the formal talks may not start until later this year.

David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the US, has said (even without public consultations) he has “a good sense of what would be in Canada’s interest”, but has made no disclosures about Canada’s negotiating position and the public is left unaware about what the Trudeau government could concede to Trump to maintain an agreement they have described as having been beneficial for Canada (despite all the evidence to the contrary).

To tell Prime Minister Trudeau that his government needs to be open and transparent throughout the entirety of the negotiating process — meaning both the unofficial talks happening now and the formal talks that could begin in mid-June or later this year — please click here.