U.S. an unruly neighbour?

I was asked recently what I thought would be one the most pressing political issues in 2018.

Although my list of possible answers is a lengthy one, ultimately I believe that the future of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, may well be Canada’s most pressing concerns.

Even the Prime Minister is quoted as suggesting that the unpredictability of NAFTA keeps him awake at night.

The concern is an understandable one.

NAFTA represents some big numbers. Canada-U.S. trade in goods and services in 2015 reached close to $881 billion. The United States is the No. 1 destination for Canadian merchandise exports. Close to 80 per cent of all Canadian exports end up in the U.S.

Between 1993 and 2015, Canadian merchandise exports to the U.S. increased annually at a rate of almost 4.6 per cent. I could continue citing many significant numbers, but more importantly, we have to look beyond the numbers.

Ultimately, these numbers relate to jobs. As part of my work as a member of Parliament, I often visit many small, medium and even large-scale private employers. It is increasingly common to find goods-and-service providers that have found lucrative markets in the United States.

I mention private-sector employers because we must never forget it is the private sector that pays for the public sector.

Recently, at a public forum in Sackville, N.S., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the United States an unruly neighbour.

Also this week Canada initiated a WTO (World Trade Organization) complaint against the United States on the eve of the next round of NAFTA negotiations.

In response, the United States has called this WTO complaint a “broad and ill-advised attack.”

These actions have led to significant amounts of speculation on the future of the NAFTA agreement.

One of the additional challenges has been the Prime Minister’s insistence that trade deals should be based on “progressive trade” and include language around topics such as labour, gender and environmental rights.

This poses the question: would Canadians accept societal values from another country demanded upon us in order to accept a trade deal?

So far the U.S., China and other TransPacific Partnership (TPP) member nations have either rejected outright or raised concerns about this approach to trade.

With Canada being unable to advance further trade relations in other markets, there is now greater pressure for success in the NAFTA negotiations.

My question this week:

  • do you believe the Prime Minister should abandon the demand to include progressive trade language in trade negotiations or do you view this as something that Canada should be steadfast on?


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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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