A former U.S. trade representative says the Obama administration viewed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement as a sort of “renegotiation of NAFTA.”
Michael Froman explained to The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos that like President Donald Trump, the former administration recognized there were issues within NAFTA. It just had a different way of tackling the problem.
Rather than threatening to scrap the North American agreement, or even re-open it, Barack Obama tried to address those issues via the TPP.
“TPP, in our view, was the renegotiation of NAFTA,” Froman said.
One of Trump’s first acts as U.S. president was to pull the U.S. out of TPP permanently, leaving more than a dozen other countries involved in the Pacific Rim trade agreement wondering if it was worth continuing without the Americans.
According to Froman, who served as U.S. trade representative from 2013 to last January, Trump will now need to find his own version of the elements in the TPP that worked in America’s favour, and try to get Canada and Mexico to agree to them during NAFTA negotiations.
It’s still unclear when those negotiations might take place, or how they might unfold. One thing Trump has made clear, however, is that he’s not willing to let NAFTA remain untouched.
According to Froman, the U. S. “may need more from Canada and more from Mexico than we were able to get in TPP, and that will be maybe where the rubber hits the road in these negotiations.”
The U.S. can’t jut revive TPP, he added, because Trump was incredibly critical of the deal.
“They’re going to need to bring back something that goes beyond it. That goes to issues like supply management and dairy, or softwood lumber, or subsidization of the aircraft industry. Other issues in the bilateral relationship that have been irritants.”
Canada should also be prepared to talk about issues like the digital economy, state-owned enterprise, labour and environmental standards, he said.
Meanwhile, Froman said, continuing with TPP without America is still “feasible.”
“The rules that we collectively designed in TPP … those are good for the system,” he argued.
“The more countries that can embrace those and put those in place, the more we’re likely to achieve global standards on issues like environmental protections or protections of workers’ rights.”
Watch the full interview with former U.S. trade representative Michael Froman above.