NAFTA grabs focus at Day 2 of premiers’ meeting in Edmonton

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Canada’s premiers are meeting Tuesday in Edmonton to discuss trade issues, particularly business with the United States and the looming renegotiation of the NAFTA deal.

It’s the first of two days of meetings of the Council of the Federation.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration released its list of objectives in the NAFTA renegotiation, which is expected to begin next month.

READ FULL TEXT: USTR Negotiating Objectives for NAFTA.

The U.S. wants better access for agriculture exports, freer trade in online purchases, and an overhaul of the dispute-settlement system.

READ MORE: Trump administration releases NAFTA goals during Made in America week 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Canada’s premiers need to work even closer together as they continue to make the case directly to individual states in the U.S. that rely on cross-border business.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says while he doesn’t think it will be needed, Canada should start compiling a list of ways to retaliate if the NAFTA talks take an ugly turn.

“I think we should begin in a tactical and strategic way begin to populate a list of potential … things we might retaliate with should things get off the rail,” Wall told reporters.

“I think it would be wise to have that ready sooner rather than later.”

READ MORE: Ambassador sees no surprises in U.S. NAFTA list 

The premiers are going to receive an update from David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

“Many of the people in the (U.S.) administration have said to me that they’d like to see this move ahead quickly. And… we’ve heard from Canadian business, from the provinces, that there’s a certain amount of uncertainly that is causing people to perhaps delay investment,” MacNaughton said. “If we can get a clarification of the trading relationship sooner rather than later, it would be better.

“But having said that, we’re not going to rush into a bad deal. We’re ready to sit down and work on this negotiation as long as it takes to get something that is going to be good for Canadians.”

MacNaughton declined to comment on a suggestion from Saskatchewan that Canada put together a list of U.S. products it could retaliate against should the trade talks go off the rails.

He said he expects things to go well.

READ MORE: Most U.S. businesses positive about trade with Canada – but not Midwest, key Trump stronghold: poll

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says talks he has had recently have reassured him the facts remain on Canada’s side.

He notes that nine million jobs in the U.S. are directly tied to trade with Canada, and more than 30 U.S. states have Canada as their largest export customer.

“Once we make that point yet again, it’s going to make our positioning on the (NAFTA) negotiations that much stronger,” says Gallant.

READ MORE: Premiers forge ahead with Indigenous meeting despite boycott by 3 groups 

On the second day of the meeting, the premiers will discuss justice issues, including how to best implement the federal government’s plan to legalize recreational use of marijuana as of July 1, 2018.

 

— With files from Global News

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