Just over half of Canadians are either open or somewhat open to Ottawa making concessions in order to preserve free trade ties with the U.S. and Mexico, according to the latest data from a Nanos Research survey for CTV News.

The marginal preference for a dovish approach on Canada’s part precedes the start of formal talks to modernize the now 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade czar Robert Lighthizer delivered a letter to congressional leaders in May, triggering the required 90-day notification to open new trade negotiations, which could begin as soon as August.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he is “100 per cent” confident a new deal will be in place within a year’s time. But major hurdles from south of the border such as newly imposed softwood lumber tariffs and sharp criticism of Canada’s supply-managed dairy system suggest hard-fought negations are on the horizon. 

A random telephone and online survey of 1,000 eligible voters asked: “Thinking of the upcoming renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, should Canada be open, somewhat open, somewhat closed, or closed to making concessions in order to keep an open trading relationship with the United States and Mexico?”

More than one in two Canadians said they believe Canada should be open (12 per cent) or somewhat open (42 per cent) to making concessions to preserve trilateral free trade. Four in 10 believe Canada should be somewhat closed (31 per cent) or closed (10 per cent) to making concessions. Six per cent were unsure.

Support for a more flexible Canadian bargaining position was found to be strongest in Ontario, where 58 per cent of those surveyed said they are either open or somewhat open to concessions. Participants in Quebec were found to be most averse to giving up ground, with just 49 per cent saying they are warm to the idea.

Canadians over 60 years old were found to be most open to compromise with NAFTA partners, with 57 per cent in favour. Those 18 to 29 years old were the least likely to favour trade concessions, with 50 per cent in favour. Men and women were found to be equally in favour of introducing more accommodating trade police to keep NAFTA alive, scoring 53 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively.

Poll Methodology

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land-and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 24thand 27th, 2017 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.