Trade lawyer: If U.S. asks for too much in NAFTA talks, just scrap it
Chrystia Freeland’s “battle-scarred” trade team is fully capable of tackling on the U.S. as the renegotiation process for NAFTA begins, a trade lawyer said.
Lawrence Herman, senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute, told BNN Friday he has “great confidence” in Canada’s foreign minister and her team to deal with the major challenges that may come from the NAFTA renegotiations. His comments come a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer triggered a 90-day consultation period with Congress for the talks, which could mean negotiations to change the trilateral free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico could begin on Aug. 16.
“We may be a lot smaller than the U.S. and we're facing a major challenge negotiating with them, but we have one of the best trade teams around,” Herman said. “Battle-scarred, experienced, they've negotiated with the Europeans, they negotiated with the Koreans — I have great confidence in the Canadian team from the prime minister’s office down.”
Freeland helped ensure the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe in what where sometimes contentious negotiations. At one point, the then-trade minister walked out of talks amid a holdout from the Belgian region of Wallonia to agree on the deal.
Herman said he expects Canadians to be presented aggressive demands for major changes to NAFTA at the negotiating table, with the Trump administration following a protectionist “America First” agenda that’s “overriding everything they do.”
“The major concern is whether the America First policies of this administration are going to make those negotiations extremely demanding, difficult and at the end of the day, kind of nasty,” he said.
But he says it’s still early days and that Canadians need to step back until the Congress’ review is over and the U.S. position is clearer.
“There's only one team in the ice: We’re not in the game yet,” Herman said. “We have to wait and see how things unfold once we get to the negotiating table.”