TORONTO – All three NAFTA members will be at the table whenever talks to revise the trade deal get underway, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday amid concerns that Mexico could be given short shrift.
Freeland stressed the importance of the trilateral relationship between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. as the three countries prepare to negotiate changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
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“There is no negotiation process yet. In fact, the United States does not yet have a team in place that could even begin those negotiations, so let’s not put the cart before the horse,” Freeland told a panel that included her Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray, at the Canadian Council for the Americas.
“But we very much recognize that NAFTA is a three-country agreement and were there to be any negotiations, those would be three-way negotiations.”
Some have expressed concerns that Mexico could end up losing under a renegotiated NAFTA, given U.S. President Donald Trump’s intent to cut America’s trade deficit with that country.
Those worries were amplified last week when, after meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said he only wanted to “tweak” his country’s trade relationship with Canada while looking for more major changes to U.S.-Mexican trade ties.
Speaking at the Canadian Council for the Americas event, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said he doesn’t believe Ottawa will throw Mexico “under the bus,” as some have suggested.
“This under the bus stuff is for losers, not for winners, and Canada is a winner,” Mulroney said.
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Mulroney, one of the architects of NAFTA, said Canada may face a “rough negotiation,” but he believes the country will emerge with better relationships with the U.S. and Mexico in the end.
“We’re going to come out of this in one piece – with a strong NAFTA and a strong bilateral and trilateral relationship,” he told the crowd in Toronto.
Two tough issues for Canada during NAFTA discussions with the U.S. will be provisions governing trade dispute settlement and rules of origin, Mulroney added.
Trump has called NAFTA the worst trade deal the U.S. has ever negotiated and has vowed to revisit, or even scrap the agreement, in favour of protectionist measures.
Mulroney, who has been friends and neighbours with Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., for years, said he felt Canada’s case “was advanced enormously” by Trudeau’s meeting with the president.
“I got the American verdict on Mr. Trudeau’s visit last week and he got high marks,” he said. “Let’s just leave it at that.”
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Following that meeting, Canada and the U.S. released a joint statement declaring that they will work at creating jobs, and continue talks on regulatory issues to make them more business-friendly and cut costs without compromising health, safety, and environmental standards.
Trade relations with the U.S. are critical to Canada. More than 75 per cent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S., with more than US$2 billion in trade happening between the two countries each day.