NAFTA renegotiation first step concerning: Hoback

Jeff Labine

The Americans have taken their first step to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and what they have planned has Prince Albert’s Conservative MP concerned.

Ever since American President Donald Trump took office, there has been uncertainty surrounding the current NAFTA deal between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. This week the American government released an 18-page summary of what they hope to achieve in the renegotiation of the 23-year-old trade deal.

Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback called it a first step in the process.

“It just lays out a broad list of a menu of items,” he said. “Couple things concerning in there. They want to look at (Chapter) 19 or the dispute settling mechanism that has worked very well for Canada in the past. They have targeted supply management, which is very concerning considering we don’t export and milk or dairy products into the U.S. For them to think we are distorting their market is misinformation that needs to be corrected.”

Saskatchewan has a lot riding on this deal. The province’s top three destinations for exports, according to 2016 numbers, is the U.S. at $3.5 billion, China at $2.4 billion and India at $1.1 billion. Last year, the province exported lentils, peas, canary seed, canola, barley and rye, among other agricultural items.

Hoback, who is also the vice-chair of the standing committee on international trade, said the Americans constantly attack Canada’s supply management, which he argued has no impact on the U.S. economy. The U.S. is also looking to try and move into more Canadian markets but Hoback believes the Great White North can compete with anyone as long as the playing field is fair.

In the summary, the White House claims “since the deal came into force in 1994, trade deficits have exploded, thousands of factories have closed and millions of Americans have found themselves stranded, no longer able to utilize the skills for which they had been trained.”

To highlight the importance of trade with Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled state side last week to address a meeting with American governors.

Hoback said the governors get it.

“I was down in Whitefish, Montana for the governors’ conference two weeks ago and they have a better understanding on the importance of trade and that relationship between Canada and the U.S. or Canada and their state is,” he said.

Hoback said having fair and good trading rules is very important for the province.

“When you look at our U.S. activity going back and forth in Saskatchewan, it is huge,” he said. “We don’t want anything that will interfere with that. It happens so naturally, we take it for granted and I don’t think we understand how much we trade with the U.S.”

He added ultimately, a good trade deal with all three countries would benefit everyone.

NDP MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River Georgina Jolibois said the Americans have laid out their priorities but the Trudeau government has yet to do the same. She said Trump’s proposed changes could have disastrous consequences to Canada’s industries including dairy and steel.

She called on Trudeau to stand up for Canada’s industries.

“Protecting our Canadian interests is very significant,” she added. “Saskatchewan is a very key player in trade with the United States of America and other countries and as a key player, our interests and priorities must be protected.”

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