POLITICS

David MacNaughton Says Canada Won't Rush Into 'Bad Deal' On NAFTA

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the deal obsolete and unfair to Americans.

07/18/2017 16:10 EDT | Updated 07/19/2017 09:54 EDT
Jason Franson/Canadian Press
Canada's ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton speaks during a press conference at the Council of Federation meetings in Edmonton on Tuesday.

EDMONTON — Canada's ambassador to the United States says he is pushing hard for a timely resolution on the NAFTA renegotiation, but he won't accept a bad deal to get it.

"We've heard from Canadian business (and) from the provinces that there's a certain amount of uncertainty that is causing people to perhaps delay investments," David MacNaughton said Tuesday on the opening day of the premiers annual summer meeting.

"Obviously if we could get a clarification of the trading relationship sooner rather than later it would be better, but having said that we're not going to rush into a bad deal.

"We're ready to sit down and work on this negotiation for as long as it takes to get something that is going to be good for Canadians."

Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press
Canada's ambassador to the United States David McNaughton speaks to media at legislature in Victoria on Feb. 16, 2017.

MacNaughton made the comments prior to briefing the leaders of Canada's provinces and territories on trade and the upcoming NAFTA talks.

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration gave notice it wants to renegotiate the 23-year-old tripartite North American Free Trade Agreement. The president says it is obsolete and unfair to American workers.

Trump team released wish-list

On Monday, the U.S. released a list of what it wishes to see changed when talks begin next month.

The U.S. wants more exports of its dairy and other agricultural products, free trade in telecommunication and online purchases, and the elimination of independent dispute resolution panels, which have ruled in Canada's favour on contentious issues such as softwood lumber.

MacNaughton said some form of external dispute resolution is critical.

"Whether or not that dispute resolution mechanism can be improved or modernized, I think we're up for discussions around that, but there needs to be some kind of a dispute resolution mechanism as part of the agreement."

MacNaughton said recent discussions with U.S. business leaders, state governors and the Trump administration suggest everyone is seeking a fair and balanced deal. But if the U.S. wants Canada to loosen up on subsidies and protectionist rules, the ambassador says bring it on.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump wears a cowboy hat as attends a "Made in America" products showcase event at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

"The U.S. dairy industry is heavily subsidized and heavily protected, as is their sugar industry and a number of other areas, so if they want to start talking about opening up agricultural markets we're happy to talk about them opening up theirs."

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said given that the U.S. list of NAFTA concerns is 16 pages long, Canadians should not expect a resolution anytime soon.

"It would be extremely unlikely that such a wide, broad list of subjects could be settled in a matter of months," Couillard said.

"It will take years. It's a long, long negotiation."

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she has spoken to 22 state governors as well as with federal lawmakers. The prevailing feeling on both sides of the border, she said, is that no harm be done to the trade agreement.

It will take years. It's a long, long negotiation.Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard

"What I have found in the United States is that there's a very deep understanding among leaders there that the connectivity between our economies is important for both of us," said Wynne.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said premiers need to continue to reach out to U.S. governors and lawmakers to make the case for cross-border trade.

Mark Blinch/Reuters
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks during an announcement in Toronto on Dec. 12, 2016.

"There's tremendous strength in working together and building things together," said Pallister.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said while the federal government will carry the ball on talks, he wants to make sure there's a way for provincial concerns and suggestions to be heard.

"There's no indication on my end that (the pathway) won't be there," said McNeil. "We just need to continue to make sure and be clear about that."

Both of our countries need this.Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil

McNeil said timing is critical.

"What I want to make sure ... is that these negotiations don't linger on," said McNeil, whose province is a heavy exporter of seafood and rubber to the U.S.

"The investment world needs certainty. Both of our countries need this."

On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall suggested Canada should compile a discreet list of retaliatory measures should the NAFTA talks "get off the rail."

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