Brad Wall: Ottawa's actions amount to 'National Energy Program 2.0'
Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is urging the federal government to shelve "incendiary" issues that run the risk of stalling North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, particularly with the United States.
"I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started off very strongly on his approach to the U.S. government and NAFTA," he told BNN in an interview late Monday.
"Lately, I've been worried because his government - and I think he has done this personally - has tried to inject a bunch of other issues that we know might be incendiary issues for this current U.S. administration."
Trilateral discussions to overhaul the 24-year-old free trade agreement have been dragging on since August. Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed frustration with the headway that had been made when the seventh round of talks wrapped up in Mexico City.
"We have not made the progress that many had hoped in this round," Lighthizer said at the time, going on to say the U.S. is ready to explore bilateral deals if the three sides can't resolve their differences.
The Liberal government mapped out its agenda for modernizing NAFTA before negotiations got underway last year, itemizing "progressive" priorities like labour safeguards, environmental controls, gender rights, measures to improve relationships with Indigenous peoples, and dispute settlement reform.
But as far as Wall is concerned, Trudeau's government should find another forum to address some of those issues.
"You're muddying the water, we need to get a trade deal," he told BNN.
"That trade deal underpins the economy in this country, and the economy allows us as a government, if we want, to make progress on all those other areas and change quality of life. But first thing's first: let's get a trade deal."