NAFTA is important on both sides of the border

By Harry Siemens – Navel gazing continues as it pertains to NAFTA and President Trump’s quest to make sure it works best for everyone including the United States. It appears Canada’s attitude is changing a little as a note to the wrap-up news conference in Montreal Monday morning.

To the point, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is encouraged by the renewed sense of optimism following the latest round of NAFTA negotiations concluded in Montreal.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — along with her American and Mexican counterparts — announced the conclusion of a new chapter on anti-corruption and signaled significant progress on sections relating to telecommunications and digital trade. The seventh and eighth round of talks will take place February and March in Mexico and Washington.

“While it’s clear that the trade partners still have some difficult issues to work through, it is encouraging to see some positive developments over the past week,” said Dan Kelly, President at CFIB. “We’re especially pleased that talks to revamp the NAFTA trade deal will continue.”

That is the crucial part in these negotiations.

Small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada are critical stakeholders in the trilateral pact which helps to facilitate approximately US$1 trillion in trade between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Data from Industry Canada shows that, of all the exporting firms in Canada, more than 90 per cent are small businesses.

Andrew Dickson, the General Manager of Manitoba Pork, said elected U.S. state officials and agricultural leaders he spoke with want to see NAFTA improved in a way that will increase the volumes of trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Recently in Kansas City, Missouri, State Agriculture and Rural Leaders hosted the 2018 Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit.

Dickson, who attended on behalf of the province’s pork sector, said he found friends in the US who are looking for allies and they want people to reach out and talk to their compatriots about the benefits of free trade and how it impacts back at the state level and the benefits it brings.

“People I met indicated that they were very supportive of free trade and would like to see it enhanced and see an even more free trade occur,” he said. “They recognize Canada invests in the United States and creates jobs and activities and services for their people the same way America invests and trades with Canadian companies and markets directly to Canadian consumers.

We play to each other’s strengths in these areas. It was apparent to me, from the people I talked to, they look to Canada as a partner in growing business both in agriculture and in other industries. I didn’t run into anybody who was entirely against Canada and wanted to see NAFTA wrecked. In fact, it was the exact opposite.”

They want NAFTA to stay in place and fix some of its quirks that the two countries can increase the volume of trade that goes between them.

Dickson said from Manitoba’s perspective, free trade is critical.

A member of the Board of Directors of Manitoba Pork says pork producers in Manitoba and Minnesota remain optimistic that NAFTA negotiators will reach an agreement that will preserve the benefits derived from the deal.

A delegation representing Manitoba Pork also participated the week of Jan 18 in Minneapolis in the 2018 Minnesota Pork Congress and meeting with fellow producers, pork sector leaders, and elected officials to talk about issues of common interest and answer questions about Manitoba’s pork sector.

Lyle Peters, a Randolph, Manitoba area pork producers and a member of MPC’s Board of Directors said when it comes to trade, there is a lot of common ground among producers from the two regions.

“We had a roundtable meeting with the two heads of the Minnesota Pork Board as well as some other producers their pork board is similar to our pork board,” said Peters. “We talked about the upcoming NAFTA negotiations and how important that is both to Manitoba and also to Minnesota that the NAFTA negotiations move forward. The Minnesota Pork Board is very much on side with our opinion.

He said they are lobbying their congresspeople, senators, and governors that they need NAFTA to continue, either to be improved or to remain status quo.

“The Trump Administration has threatened to kill the NAFTA negotiations, and that would be bad for both our side and theirs, and they understand that, and so they have been lobbying to make sure those negotiations move forward,” said Peters. “The Minnesota pork producers are relatively confident that the NAFTA negotiations will move forward on their side and we at Manitoba Pork believe that the NAFTA negotiations will move forward on our side too.

So there’s quite a lot of optimism that something will get settled.

Peters said it’s crucial for Manitoba producers to be there and meet with local producers who are buying weanlings or market hogs that are coming in from Manitoba, to talk with the leaders of the Minnesota pork board and also to create new relationships.