OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is laying out Canada’s core objectives for the upcoming renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In a speech Monday, Freeland shared a half-dozen NAFTA goals – including opening up access to government procurement rights, more professional movement, defending Canadian rights to supply management and reform of the investor-state dispute settlement process.
“In all these discussions, we will come to the table with goodwill, and Canada’s characteristic ability and willingness to seek compromise and find win-win solutions,” she said.
“But we are committed to a good deal, not just any deal.”
She is also calling for new “progressive” elements in NAFTA 2.0: stronger labour standards, tougher environmental protection provisions as well as chapters on gender and Indigenous rights.
On that front, Canadian negotiators plan to use Canada’s recently negotiated trade agreement with the European Union as a reference, Freeland said.
“Progressive elements are also important if you want a free-trade deal that’s also a fair-trade deal,” Freeland said in a question-and-answer session following the speech at University of Ottawa.
Ottawa also aims to cut down on bureaucracy, harmonize regulations to ease the flow of cross-border business, push for more mobility for professionals and free up the market for government procurement, she told her audience.
Canada’s positions will also include work to maintain key elements of the 23-year-old deal, including the process to ensure anti-dumping and countervailing duties are only applied when truly warranted.
Ottawa’s negotiating team will sit down with their American and Mexican counterparts Wednesday in Washington for the first round of talks.
Last month, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released the Trump administration’s set of priorities for the NAFTA talks.
These included improving market access in Canada and Mexico for American manufacturing, agriculture and services. They also want to add a chapter about the “digital economy” and strengthening labour and environment obligations.
The Trump administration is also hoping to eliminate what they see as “unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions on intellectual property,” according to a press release from the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
During the question and answer session Monday, Freeland said she believes Canada and its NAFTA partners can find common ground on new chapters for labour, the environment, gender and Indigenous rights.
But she also warned that Canadians should brace for some tense exchanges during the NAFTA talks, in general.
“I think we all do need to be prepared for some moments of drama,” she said. “We should just see that as an expected part of any trade negotiations.”
WATCH: Canada is willing to walk away if NAFTA talks go south. Vassy Kapelos reports.
Canada walked out of the free trade agreement negotiations in 1987 over the Reagan administrations initial refusal to agree to a binding binational review of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, she said, and the Trudeau government will be “equally resolute.”
Here is a brief list of Canada’s key demands:
- A new chapter on labour standards.
- A new chapter on environmental standards.
- A new chapter on gender rights.
- A new chapter on Indigenous rights.
- Reforms to the investor-state dispute settlement process. Specifically, Freeland referred to Chapter 11 – which involves companies suing governments.
- Expand procurement.
- Freer movement of professionals.
- Protect Canada’s supply-management system for dairy and poultry.
- Protect cultural exemptions.
- Maintaining a process to regulate anti-dumping and countervailing disputes, like the one over softwood lumber.