By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
While enjoying the Labour Day weekend, there was an uncertainty weighing on the mind of Oshawa MP Colin Carrie.
Last Friday, Aug. 31, passed by without Canada and the U.S. finalizing a new pact under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
While negotiations will continue this week, the situation is causing great concern for Carrie.
“I’m very hopeful we can get a deal,” Carrie says. “I think this is on the minds of a lot of people. To see the Liberal government in a last minute dash, it’s causing uncertainty.”
That uncertainty for many people was increased by leaked comments from U.S. President Donald Trump.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Trump told journalists “off the record” that the U.S. NAFTA offer to Canada was “going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”
Those comments were later leaked and confirmed by Trump on his Twitter account.
A day after the talks stalled, Trump took to Twitter again and slammed his neighbour to the north.
“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out,” Trump wrote.
While Carrie says Trump’s comments “should be paid attention to”, the president isn’t the one sitting at the table.
“As people know, Mr. Trump makes all kinds of comments. But at the end of the day, he personally isn’t the negotiator,” he says.
Carrie says Mexico and the U.S. already signing a deal has put Canada “at a disadvantage.”
Also on the MP’s mind is the potential for a 25 per cent tariff on automobiles exported to the U.S., a threat Carrie says could be dire for Oshawa’s economy.
“I think any time that the president has stated that tariffs are on the table, you have to take it quite seriously,” he says. “The closer we get to these auto tariffs, it’s devastating.”
Carrie says existing tariffs on steel and aluminium have already had a large affect.
During a visit to UOIT on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government has placed tariffs on U.S. goods in response.
“We recognize the challenges around trade discussion with the United States. We’ve moved forward in a way that demonstrates that we are responding with countering duties that are causing challenges in the United States,” Trudeau stated. “On international trade, we will always stand up for Canadians, we will always stand up for Canadian interests, and we will always defend Canadian workers, that’s what we’ve been clear on.”
However, Trudeau said the goal is not a combative stance with its largest trading partner “Our goal has always been to get to smooth and fair free trade between Canada and the United States. The best way to do that is to move forward with a NAFTA deal that is good for Canada.”
Carrie, who first joined the Parliament in 2004, says he has never seen Canada’s “relationship at this level” with the U.S. when it comes to trade.
However, he points out Canada has some of the best negotiators in the world, and it is not just the political heads who will iron out a NAFTA agreement.
“I think people have to realize our relationship with the United States goes further than just two people.”
While addressing the topic on Friday, Trudeau said Canada’s focus isn’t pushing through any agreement.
We’ve also been very, very clear, we will only sign a deal, if it is a good deal for Canada. No deal is better than a bad deal for Canada, and that is what we are remaining firm on,” he said. “But we also know is very possible to get a deal that works in everyone’s interest, because quite frankly, here in North America, that collaboration of our three countries has resulted in…extraordinarily good jobs for Canadian, American, and Mexican people alike.”
Despite Trump’s statements on Twitter, Trudeau claims his government’s focus is strictly on successful negotiations.
“There are a lot of things that have been said from time to time. Our government’s approach is always to stay constructive, positive, to engage on the substance of issues and to demonstrate that we understand that the path forward is one of making sure there is a win-win-win on all sides,” he says.
When asked about any possible concessions, the prime minister said he wouldn’t negotiate in public.
“I can say in the past number of days, we’ve had some very positive conversations on a broad range of issues. We’ve have been very clear about where our red lines are, and we have been very clear about where we think there is room for give and take.”