Canada is bringing a mix of optimism and dread at the thought of damaging its most important trading relationship as the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation’s begin this week.
The Washington Post reports Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently spoke to the National Governors Association conference in July, making a pitch for free trade. Trudeau told the governors, “Free trade has worked,” he said. “It’s working now.” He also made a plea for Americans to stay away from protectionism. “If anything, we’d like thinner trade barriers, not thicker,” he added. Canada seems to think President Donald Trump’s NAFTA concerns are primarily with Mexico.
However, Canadian officials are very concerned over U.S. efforts to gain concessions in politically contentious issues like lumber, dairy, and wine. They’re also concerned about America pushing to weaken a trade-dispute mechanism that Canada had to work very hard to get in the first NAFTA agreement. There is also a push among the three countries to modernize the agreement when it comes to trade services and the digital economy. Larry Herman, a Toronto trade lawyer, says Canada should be prepared for tough, difficult, and “rather unpleasant negotiations.”