Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has confirmed that American negotiators played hardball at the NAFTA negotiating table last week, tabling strict “Buy American” demands that would give Canadian companies the same access to U.S. government projects as firms based in Bahrain.
The Americans “came forward with a really disappointing offer on government procurement” Freeland told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, describing the proposals to limit Canadian bids on U.S. government-funded infrastructure projects as a step backward.
“We don’t think that that is very realistic,” she said.
Freeland also repeated that Canada and the U.S. remain far apart on issues linked to cross-border dispute resolution as they attempt to renegotiate NAFTA alongside Mexico, but added that she remains optimistic that compromises can be reached.
WATCH: Freeland praises five days of ‘productive’ NAFTA talks
The fact that the Trump administration is highly protectionist should come as a surprise to no one, Freeland noted.
“It is overtly protectionist. This is an administration that talks about America First … that’s their ideological worldview,” she told Kapelos.
“It’s not my job to persuade them to have different views about trade at a philosophical level. What it’s my job to do is to explain to them, to really remind them, how mutually beneficial the trading relationship is with Canada.”
Boeing not a ‘trusted partner’
Freeland was also asked to clarify the government’s position on purchasing a new crop of Boeing Super Hornet jets while the American firm is embroiled in a spat with Canadian aerospace company Bombardier.
Last week, the U.S. slapped a 220 per cent duty on Bombardier’s C-Series planes. The Canadian government has not said for certain if the deal with Boeing is off as a result.
“The government of Canada is only going to spend taxpayer dollars with trusted partners,” Freeland said.
“A trusted partner is not a company which is attacking the Canadian aerospace sector.”
Asked if that means there will be no new Super Hornets until the Bombardier dispute is resolved, Freeland replied, “I think I’ve expressed the position very clearly.”