With growing fears that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be terminated, Moody’s Investors Service took a look at where Canada would hurt the most if the deal is killed.
A report released Thursday highlights that provincial economies are bound to suffer more than the national one.
And in Canada, Ontario and New Brunswick would feel negative effects the most.
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Moody’s analyst Michael Yake explained to Global News that the projected impact was measured by the size of export to the U.S. relative to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP). The second factor considered is which industries the province has — certain sectors, such as manufacturing, are more vulnerable.
“It’s not as if after NAFTA is removed that suddenly every export will go up. Each industry, each sector has different tariffs,” Yake said.
Here’s a closer look how provinces will be affected:
Most likely to be hurt if NAFTA is terminated:
Moody’s reports that exports to the U.S. accounted for 28.5 per cent of New Brunswick’s GDP in 2016.
The provinces food, agricultural and forestry sectors are most vulnerable to changes.
Yake explained that New Brunswick exports are common food products such as frozen vegetables. If these exports are hit by tariffs, the province may lose out on U.S. business and have to look elsewhere.
Exports to the U.S. represented 26 per cent of Ontario’s GDP in 2016, which means it could also be significantly impacted by higher tariffs.
Ontario has the largest trade flow to the U.S. among Canadian provinces, and its manufacturing industry would face the majority of the difficulties.
A November 2017 report from the Royal Bank of Canada also predicted adverse effects for Ontario, saying that the province is home to some “highly trade-sensitive sectors,” especially the auto industry.
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Walid Hejazi, an associate professor of international business at the University of Toronto, explained that aside from auto, other manufacturing industries such as machinery, equipment and other transportation production would be impacted.
Least likely to be hurt if NAFTA is terminated:
British Columbia is the safest in terms of economic consequences, and that’s because of its geographic location, which opens it up to Asian markets.
Its exports to the U.S. also account for only eight per cent of its overall GDP, which is lower than most provinces.
Similar to B.C., Nova Scotia’s 2016 exports to the U.S. were 8.8 per cent of the province’s GDP.
How other provinces would fare:
While Alberta’s oil and gas exports are heavily intertwined with U.S. economies, Moody’s predicts the impact on the provincial economy would be limited.
That’s because the most-favoured nation tariffs from the World Trade Organization would kick in — and they are relatively low.
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Yake explained that the U.S. recently approved the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project, which signals that the Trump administration has a “favourable view” of trading in this sector.
“In terms of impact, we actually think Alberta would be toward the lower end,” Yake said. “We just feel like they wouldn’t want to put a tariff barrier on that particular good.”
Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador
Like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador do export natural resources to the U.S., but this sector is predicted by Moody’s to be relatively safe.
“Their share of energy and gas is a little bit less than Alberta, but they still have fairly high levels of goods that we don’t think are going to have very high tariffs applied to them,” Yake said.
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Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba
Moody’s explained that these three provinces stand “in the middle of the pack” in terms of how much exports account for GDP at 13 to 17 per cent.
Yake flagged that Quebec and Manitoba both have a fairly low share of exports to the U.S., but they do have vulnerable manufacturing sectors.
“They’re going to be impacted less than Ontario, simply because their share is less to begin with.”
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Hejazi explained that the true impact of NAFTA being terminated won’t be known unless it actually happens.
“The larger the exposure these provinces have to U.S. states, the more impacted they would be,” he explained. “But even that impact could depend upon whether or not those exports could find homes in Canada.”
The professor said the uncertainty of it all is concerning.
“Hope is not a strategy, and the fact that we’re hoping that one man named Donald Trump makes the right decision that could affect the prosperity of millions of Canadians, I think that’s a sad statement.”