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Bill Kelly: Canada’s protectionist attitude is stalling NAFTA

In this Oct. 17, 2017, file photo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, centre, with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, left, and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, right, speaks during the conclusion of the fourth round of negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Washington.
In this Oct. 17, 2017, file photo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, centre, with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, left, and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, right, speaks during the conclusion of the fourth round of negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Washington. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

It’s encouraging that the pesky auto sector portion of the NAFTA negotiations seems to be heading toward consensus, but there are still some major issues to be resolved and not a whole lot of time to get a deal done.

Both the United States and Mexico want a new NAFTA deal this spring because of upcoming elections in both countries, but the holdup seems to be Canada’s protectionist attitude on some key issues.

Canada’s supply management program, which subsidizes the dairy industry, has been a major sticking point, but Canada has other protectionist programs for the poultry and wine industries and of course, the contentious telecommunications field, where companies like Verizon would love to have access to Canadian markets and online shopping entities like Amazon, would like to see Canadian restrictions relaxed.

READ MORE: NAFTA talks could be on the verge of a breakthrough, deal possible by next month

No one is suggesting that Canada simply cave in to any American request, but it seems that Canada’s intransigence on some of these issues has more to do with protecting the business interests of a few Canadians at the expense of the rest of us.

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Case in point: we pay among the highest cellphone rates in the world because we won’t allow telecom giants like Verizon into the Canadian market.

We’re not going to get a 21st-century trade deal if we bring a 19th-century attitude to the table.