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Canadian Foreign Minister Explains NAFTA Priorities

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

15 August 2017

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said that the Government will push for NAFTA to be modernized and made more progressive when renegotiation talks with the US and Mexico get underway.

In a speech on the Government's priorities for renegotiation, Freeland said that the negotiations "are a deeply serious and profoundly consequential moment for all of us."

Outlining her key objectives, Freeland said that an updated NAFTA should reflect the ways in which the global, North American, and Canadian economies have been transformed during the agreement's 23-year history, in particular through technological advancements.

In addition, Freeland stated that Canada will seek a more progressive NAFTA, by "bringing strong labor safeguards into the core of the agreement," and by "integrating enhanced environmental provisions to ensure no NAFTA country weakens environmental protection to attract investment." It will also pursue a new chapter on gender rights and a chapter on Indigenous peoples, and will aim to reform the investor-state dispute settlement process.

Other major objectives will be the cutting of red tape and the harmonization of regulations, and the introduction of a freer market for government procurement. Canada will likewise seek to make the movement of professionals easier.

Finally, Freeland stressed that Canada will "uphold and preserve the elements in NAFTA that Canadians deem key to our national interest." In particular, the Government will insist that "anti-dumping and countervailing duties are only applied when truly warranted."

Freeland said that the Government had sought and received more than 21,000 submissions on NAFTA, and consultations will continue throughout the renegotiation process.

Freeland said the Canadian Government would now seize the opportunity to "make what is already a good agreement even better."

"We are in this effort for all Canadians – and beyond that, for the broader North American community. Because if we get this right, the working people of all three countries will benefit," she added.

Freeland explained that, since 1994, trade among the NAFTA partners has tripled. The regional market is worth CAD19 trillion, and has around 470 million customers.

She said: "Canada's economy is 2.5 percent larger every year than it otherwise would be, thanks to NAFTA. (It is as if Canada has been receiving a CAD20 billion check each year since NAFTA was ratified.)"

Negotiations are due to begin on August 16.

TAGS: environment | investment | free trade agreement (FTA) | export duty | interest | tariffs | anti-dumping | trade treaty | Mexico | agreements | professionals | trade disputes | Canada | United States | import duty | regulation | trade | North America

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