Trump administration puts NAFTA on notice
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, January 20, 2017 1:23PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 20, 2017 2:16PM EST
The White House confirmed U.S. President Donald Trump’s intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement just minutes after the 45th president finished his inauguration speech Friday.
An announcement on the updated White House website also promises to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact signed last year by 14 countries, including Canada. Trump repeatedly vowed during his campaign to fix or abandon trade deals he said had cost the U.S. jobs.
“If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA,” the statement reads.
“For too long, Americans have been forced to accept trade deals that put the interests of insiders and the Washington elite over the hard-working men and women of this country. As a result, blue-collar towns and cities have watched their factories close and good-paying jobs move overseas, while Americans face a mounting trade deficit and a devastated manufacturing base.”
Earlier Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada will be “firm and strong” in defending its interests.
Speaking to CTV News’ Lisa LaFlamme shortly before Trump’s inaugural address on Capitol Hill, in which he declared that every decision on trade, taxes, immigration and foreign affairs would be based on a mantra of “America first” and that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” Freeland said she believes the Canada-U.S. relationship will remain strong.
“I do really want to emphasize that my principal job, and I think the job of our government right now, is building a relationship with this new administration and making clear to Canadians and to Americans that we are going to be absolutely firm and strong, friendly, but strong in defending our national interests.”
She said her department has emphasized the close economic ties between Canada and the U.S. with senior members of Trump’s team. Canada is the biggest export market for 35 states, and 9 million American jobs rely directly on trade with Canada.
“The Canada-U.S. relationship is the most important economic relationship in the world. We do more business with the United States than any other country does. And Canadians know it but it’s sometimes useful for Canadians … to remind Americans of that.”
In a statement congratulating Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada and the U.S. have built an “enduring partnership” that is “essential to our shared prosperity and security.”
He said trade and integrated economies support millions of jobs on both sides of the border.
“We both want to build economies where the middle class, and those working hard to join it, have a fair shot at success.”
But Trump’s first speech as commander-in-chief stressed protectionism over integration. He referenced “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” and said the U.S. has enriched other nations at its own expense.
“From this day forward, it's going to be only America first. America first,” he said.
“We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
Freeland told LaFlamme that she and senior Department of Foreign Affairs staff, along with David MacNaughton, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., have been meeting with key people on the Trump team since the election, including chief strategist and senior counsellor Steve Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
The minister said secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, is a “great friend of Canada” and that his background in the energy industry is an advantage.
“He understands our energy industry and he understands how important it is to our relationship with the United States and our contribution to the world.”
Despite uncertainty, Freeland says Canadians are “calm” about what’s ahead.
“I think the keep calm and carry on is kind of the way our country behaves.