By J. Stewart Cook
By golly, it only takes a Canadian Liberal Government, along with a “selfie-made” Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to take one of the most important trade deals, the “North American Free Trade Agreement” (NAFTA), and turn it into a bowl of noodles “whirling and twirling” out of control. Add some Parmesan cheese and the whole thing “stinks.” Is Canada ready for the renegotiation of “NAFTA?” I think I’ll call it “PASTA!”
The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States of America, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.
“Most economic analyses indicate that NAFTA has been beneficial to the North American economies and the average citizen,but harmed a small minority of workers in industries exposed to trade competition.Economists hold that withdrawing from NAFTA or renegotiating NAFTA in a way that reestablishes trade barriers will adversely affect the U.S. economy and cost jobs. The goal of NAFTA was to eliminate barriers to trade and investment between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The implementation of NAFTA on January 1, 1994 brought the immediate elimination of tariffs on more than one-half of Mexico’s exports to the U.S. and more than one-third of U.S. exports to Mexico. Within 10 years of the implementation of the agreement, all U.S.-Mexico tariffs would be eliminated except for some U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico that were to be phased out within 15 years. Most U.S.-Canada trade was already duty-free. NAFTA also sought to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers and to protect the intellectual property rights on traded products.”
There are two components with any “agreement.” There is the written portion (the document) and the verbal (how/what was negotiated and by whom). Key to any strong agreement is the calibre of the negotiators and strategic negotiations. The NAFTA took several years to conclude and was viewed by many as a trade “masterpiece.”
Without citing all the key individuals involved in the NAFTA negotiations, one Canadian who masterfully negotiated, on behalf of Canada, was former Prime Minister, the Honourable Brian Mulroney. Along with him, was his former Chief of Staff and Ambassador to the United States, Derek Burney. In the USA, former President Ronald Reagan, along with key strategists, the U.S. Trade Representative, Carla Hills and Ambassador Jules Katz all played significant roles throughout the negotiations.
So here we are today. The present President, Donald Trump, has decided to renegotiate NAFTA. Simply put, the President wishes to examine the discrepancy between American imports and exports and many of the grievances businesses in the USA have held against Canada (and Mexico) for years.
On the American side, President Trump has a key negotiator, the United States Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, There is also the US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. It would seem that Canada’s key negotiator will be the Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland. However, the players are to be confirmed.
Given the above, I make a case for the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to consider the former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, as the key negotiator for Canada. Since the former Prime Minister was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, it would be appropriate for the present Leader of Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, to recommend to the Prime Minister Mr. Mulroney as the lead person for the upcoming negotiations. The title, “éminence grise” (commonly used title in French) or “grey eminence” would be well suited for him, as he would be a powerful negotiator and advisor in an unofficial capacity.
The Liberal Party of Canada does not have members, nor other individuals, with the calibre, experience and negotiation skills of the former Prime Minister. There is absolutely no comparison between Prime Minister Trudeau and former Prime Minister Mulroney when it comes to business acumen and negotiations. The present Prime Minster lacks these skills and qualities. Keep in mind, the former Prime Minister was President of the Iron Ore Company of Canada. This being said, the light at the end of the tunnel for the Liberal Party is Derek Burney, who is currently advising Prime Minister Trudeau on how to proceed with the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Nevertheless, it will take a “master negotiator” like Brain Mulroney to face another “master negotiator” Donald Trump. Both men have “mastered” the art of negotiation and have the tactics and skills on how to win. It will be an event not to be missed!
From a political perspective, should the negotiations be favourable and beneficial to Canada, one would hope that the Liberal Party will give credit to the Conservatives for their efforts and success. This may be politically painful for the Liberal Party, nevertheless,…it’s the right thing to do!
As for the NAFTA/PASTA negotiations, it is to be seen if Canada, under the Leadership of Justin Trudeau, will be whirling and twirling like pasta in a bowl. Or, perhaps, President Trump will demonstrate his “political/culinary” skills and show that pasta is always better “al dente”…cooked to be firm to the bite...an “agreement” no other chef would challenge!