MP on CanadaUS file says sharing NAFTA goals gives up negotiating advantage

first_imgOTTAWA – It would not make any sense for the Liberal government to divulge what they hope to get out of a new North American Free Trade Agreement, said Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations.“It’s illogical to unmask and to lay down detailed objectives when we don’t have to,” Leslie said Friday.“What we’d rather do is analyze what they’ve laid down — no real surprises there — figure out where we can negotiate, what we can probably push ahead or hold the line on and take it from there,” he said.The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump released an 18-page summary of its objectives for the new NAFTA on Monday, as required by U.S. law.There are no such rules forcing the Canadian government to do the same, but Conservatives and New Democrats teamed up to ask that several cabinet ministers appear before an emergency summer meeting of the House of Commons trade committee to do just that.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has agreed to attend, alongside officials, on Aug. 14 — two days before the first round of negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico begin in Washington, D.C.Leslie said Freeland can be expected to outline approaches, rather than share detailed objectives, to avoid “giving up a negotiating advantage.”When it comes to the overall approach Canada will take, Leslie said it is akin to what U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said in a speech when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Rhode Island last week: a “win-win-win” for all three of the trading partners.The American NAFTA objectives do not always appear to take that approach.They say the U.S. government will insist on maintaining “Buy American” rules that limit opportunities to foreigners, while at the same time demanding more opportunities for American suppliers to bid on government procurement contracts in Canada and Mexico.“That’s one reason why we should not start negotiating in public,” Leslie said when asked about how this squares with the message from Pence.“That will have to be part of the give-and-take of the negotiating teams,” Leslie said.If the president wants “Buy American,” then what about access to projects like the billions the Liberals intend to spend on infrastructure?, Leslie said.“I think our friends and allies would do well to watch what we are about to build in Canada and they may want to take part in that,” he said.The Conservatives and New Democrats had asked for International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Finance Minister Bill Morneau to attend the committee as well, but the Liberals said Freeland has the lead on the file and is best placed to answer questions.They had also wanted to hear from Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator, which remains a possibility if Freeland decides to bring him.The opposition said they are not asking the Liberals to share their strategy, but want greater transparency.“We want to make sure that they’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s and lay out the list of priorities so Canadians can understand exactly what’s going to be in these negotiations,” said Conservative MP Randy Hoback.“We were promised by the Liberal government that they would have a progressive trade agenda,” said NDP MP Tracey Ramsey.“It’s time for them to show Canadians what they mean by that.”Ramsey had asked the committee to invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to appear as a witness, but no one supported the motion.Trudeau said his government wants to work with all political parties on the issue, even though he will not come to committee.— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitterlast_img read more