Ambassador: Canada would come to table on NAFTA

Donald Trump had vowed to reshape the NAFTA free-trade agreement, threatening to pull out of it on the campaign trail

David MacNaughton. Canada's ambassador to the United States, speaks to the media at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Sudbury, Ont., on Sunday, August 21, 2016. (Nathan Dennette/CP)

David MacNaughton. Canada’s ambassador to the United States, speaks to the media at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Sudbury, Ont., on Sunday, August 21, 2016. (Nathan Dennette/CP)

OTTAWA – If U.S. president-elect Donald Trump wants to sit down and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada says it’s prepared to talk.

“We’re ready to come to the table,” David MacNaughton, the country’s ambassador to Washington, said Wednesday.

Canada believes the agreement as it stands has benefited all three countries, but “everything can be improved,” he told a conference call with journalists.

MacNaughton stopped short of disclosing details of what Canada would seek in an updated agreement, saying he’d prefer to save that for the discussion table.

He did say, however, that he’d appreciate seeing free trade in lumber — a perennial irritant.

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Upgrading the 1993 agreement was a major promise in Trump’s successful election campaign; Trump says if the U.S.’s neighbours don’t agree to renegotiate it, he’d move to scrap the deal — a move trade observers say could be quite complicated.

”NAFTA was the worst trade deal in history,” Trump said in a campaign speech.

”I’m going tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don’t mean just a little bit better — I mean a lot better.

“If they do not agree to a renegotiation, then I will submit notice under Article 2205 of the NAFTA agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.”

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Observers say that a president could easily pull out of NAFTA, but that wouldn’t automatically restore trade tariffs — that would require congressional action, which would potentially be a contentious process.

Also, MacNaughton said, he wouldn’t expect the original Canada-U.S. trade agreement that predated NAFTA to simply disappear either.

Earlier in the day Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his congratulations to the U.S. president-elect, saying he’s willing to work with the new administration.

MacNaughton said he expects the two leaders to speak soon.


Ambassador: Canada would come to table on NAFTA

  1. I don’t think “negotiation” is the right word when the other party is holding a gun to your head.

    There are only two positives here:

    1. Trump is mainly after Mexico, not Canada. But this in itself will represent an ethical problem for Canada – will we stand aside quietly while Trump bullies and intimidates Mexico? Don’t we all need to stand up and push back against bullies, whether they’re in the schoolyard, the Kremlin or the White House? If not, explain why to your kids.

    2. The majority in Congress favour NAFTA because of the benefits that flowed into their constituencies. Trump doesn’t realize it yet, but he serves at their pleasure. Alienate Congress and good luck with the rest of the Trump Agenda.

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