Canada’s former minister of international trade says the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated based on a false premise established by the American president.
Ed Fast said Donald Trump has initiated the talks based on the falsehood that his country is at a disadvantage in trade. In fact, it is Canada that has a slight trade deficit with its southern neighbour, the Abbotsford MP told an agriculture business crowd Thursday morning.
Fast was speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors at Tanglebank Gardens and Brambles Bistro.
Canada is dealing with a president who has “appealed to the basest instincts” of rust-belt voters to whom he has promised great things, Fast said. The high expectations of his supporters put the pressure on Trump to either kill NAFTA or restructure it dramatically, he said.
But Fast also had some praise for Trump. He applauded his deep corporate tax cuts, which he said would attract investment to the U.S.
Despite his Conservative Party’s place in opposition, Fast said he had full confidence in Canada’s negotiation team that has been meeting with Mexican and American counterparts in recent months. But he said he questions some direction coming from the Liberal cabinet.
Fast said he was most worried about the threat to supply management – the marketing system that protects dairy, eggs and poultry producers. He said U.S. negotiators have the system in their sights, as they see it as an unfair advantage Canadian farmers have over Americans.
Trump’s zero-sum game view of trade is simply inaccurate, Fast said. On the very day the deal was signed, Fast praised the salvaging of the Trans Pacific Partnership with 10 other nations – including Japan, Australia and Mexico – that was put in jeopardy when the U.S. pulled out last year.
Fast also said he was happy to read reports that Trump is considering exemptions for both Canada and Mexico for his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. (The exemptions were confirmed by U.S. officials just a few hours after Fast’s talk.)
He also said he expects other countries affected by Trump’s protectionist trade policies to file disputes with the World Trade Organization. But even if they do, Fast said the president will probably be undeterred.
“Donald Trump doesn’t care much about the rules,” he said.