Canada 'extremely worried' about NAFTA: Ambrose
Published Sunday, October 22, 2017 11:00AM EDT
OTTAWA – Behind the scenes Canadian officials are "extremely worried" about where the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are headed, and it’s time to be worried, says Rona Ambrose, a member of Canada’s NAFTA Advisory Council.
“I’m hearing that people are extremely worried about where this is going, and people use language behind the scenes like 'it looks like the Americans are driving towards a cliff on this, and Canada will have to follow' and we don’t want to see that," said Ambrose in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period.
Ambrose said it all came to bear in the last round of NAFTA talks that concluded in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17.
There, the American trade negotiators put demands on the table, including on auto and dairy, that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called "unconventional" and "troubling" in the round four closing news conference.
"The American’s demands are completely unreasonable. They may not seem unreasonable for the Americans but they are definitely unreasonable for the Mexicans and Canadians, and they put NAFTA at risk," said Ambrose, who prior to joining the NAFTA team was interim leader of the federal Conservatives.
The federal government is dispatching cabinet ministers and premiers to the United States to try to once again sell staying in the deal, The Canadian Press reported Oct. 19.
"I actually think it’s time for us to be worried, I think we are worried behind the scenes, and I think we have to start activating everyone who understands why it matters that this agreement cannot fall apart, and that means on both sides of the border," Ambrose said.
She said that a week or so ago she would have chalked it up to typical trade rhetoric, but it’s clear now that they mean what they say and the Americans could be setting themselves up to sabotage the renegotiations.
"The truth is if you read what he says and you listen to what Lighthizer [United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer] is saying, it is very troubling," said Ambrose.
Former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer said it is imperative Canada figures out a win for all sides, and one that’s not detrimental to Canadian business.
"This is very serious," he said on CTV’s Question Period.
'Trump has set himself up to win'
The U.S. has set the stage for them to either pull out, or get the "America first" deal they’ve been seeking. Either way, that doesn’t put Canada in a very good spot, said Ambrose.
"The way things are headed, Trump wins either way, but Canada does not," she said. "Trump has set himself up to win no matter what."
Doer said Canada should "talk over the White House and over the negotiating table" and leverage the argument that though a NAFTA pullout will have consequences south of the border.
"It won’t be without consequences in the United States as well," said Doer. "It’s not necessarily a win to get a one-day headline and have unemployment in your own country," he said of Trump removing the U.S. from the deal.
Ambrose said that though the deal won’t unravel overnight if Trump tweets he’s pulling out, it would create economic uncertainty.
The one "shred of optimism"-- as Ambrose put it -- for the Canadian government is that there is about a month before round five of renegotiations get underway in Mexico Nov. 17.
New U.S. Ambassador could help
On Monday, Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft will be in Ottawa to present her letters of credence to Governor General of Canada Julie Payette. She is also expected to speak to the press afterwards.
Having Craft in Ottawa ahead of the next round of trade talks is a good thing, said Doer, who thinks she could “definitely” help Canada navigate moving forward and getting a good deal.