World Bulletin / News Desk
Agricultural Minister Lawrence MacAulay is headed for the United States on Friday where he will join other senior Cabinet ministers in a bid to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Canada is trying to rally American politicians and business leaders to pressure U.S. President Donald Trump into softening so-called “poison pill” demands that threaten to sink the free trade deal between the two countries and Mexico.
The sixth round of NAFTA talks are set to begin Jan. 23 in Montreal.
MacAulay will attend the American Farm Bureau Federation’s farm show in the state of Tennessee, where Trump is expected to speak this weekend, while Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is in Kentucky for meetings with that state’s governor and other senior officials. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is in California to push for clean technology and trade.
Some Canadian media are calling it the “charm offensive” – Cabinet ministers have met with hundreds of American politicians in the past year -- since NAFTA negotiations are tense and a new deal is far from a done deal.
The sticking points are tough U.S. demands. Including more made-in-America content of parts in autos, a purchasing policy that puts “Buy American” first and an end to the dispute settlement mechanism in NAFTA.
While the Americans have a wish list numbering 100 items, there are far fewer Canadian demands, but they are causing the U.S. to balk.
Canada wants tougher labor standards and higher wages -- predominately in Mexico – to help prevent Canadian businesses from heading south of the American border.
The Canadians also insist on a clause to prevent any country from weakening environmental protection to attract business and, also measures to combat climate change. Trump has stated he does not believe in climate change.
Canada has tried to get the “Buy American” rules for construction projects changed, but again, Trump is an obstacle who campaigned on America first.
The Canadians want to retain the dispute settling mechanism in NAFTA, where panels rule on disputes over such products as lumber, where the Americans have accused the Canadian government of subsidizing softwood lumber exports.
Also included in the demands are protections for the Canadian dairy industry and Canadian cultural industries such as publishing and broadcasting.
While the Americans said those rules contribute to international trade barriers, Canada has long had content rules so that its culture is not submerged by the large American influence in the arts.
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