Inside Canada's efforts to inject climate change into NAFTA 2.0

Inside Canada's efforts to inject climate change into NAFTA 2.0
From CBC - September 23, 2017

Canada is looking to places beyond the White House to support a chapter on the environment in an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite U.S. President Donald Trump's indifference, at one point even denial, towards climate change.

Ahead of the third round of negotiations in Ottawa this weekend and early next week, Canada's Environment Minister met with her NAFTA advisory council on the environment on Friday.

The 10-member council includes Canadians with politics, law, and Indigenous backgrounds to advise McKenna environmental issues as Canada looks to strengthen environmental protections in a new NAFTA.

Climate change was been seen as a potential stumbling block inthe negotiations, as Trump has previously called global warming a"hoax," withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord and promises to rebuild America's coal industry.

"There are many different kinds of folks out there in the United States and so, yes, while federally they may be taking a different approach certainly we have seen at the state level lots of good action," McKenna told host Chris Hall.

"Canada has to make decisions for itself... We need to make sure we are regulating in our own national interest."

The British (trade teams) are coming

The new British High Commisioner to Canada said the U.K. is open to the so-called progressive chapters the Liberal government has been pushing for in free trade deals, but not right off the bat.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Theresa May told reporters they agreed to a "seamless" transition of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada after the U.K. leaves the EU and is no longer a party to that agreement.

May said her government will be putting together a "working group" with Canadaon a new trade deal, withCETAas the basis.

"I think initially what we are looking for is a more or less a direct transposition of what's there already. But as both prime ministers made clear on Monday, that does not exclude the possibility after we have left the European Union to re-examine the agreement and add or substract things from it," said Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council Global Citizen Awards Gala in New York City Tuesday, Trudeau reiterated the importance of pushing chapters on gender equality, Indigenous rights, and labour protections as priorities for a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

He said trade deals have been broadly positive for the majority of citizens, but if they were perfect there would be no populist backlash like the ones currently occurring, especially in former manufacturing regions slammed by offshoring and automation.

"In short, progressive trade is not a frill. In addition to being the right thing to do, it is a practical necessity, without which popular support for a growth agenda cannot be maintained," Trudeau said.

Looking to China 'with our eyeswide open'

Canada's ambassador to China says the Liberal government is still making its pros and cons list about launching formal talks around a free trade deal with the global superpower, including the potential public fallout.

"It's in our genes, if you will, to do free trade agreements, but there are concerns. There are some industries which would not be happy. There are some groups of Canadians who would not favour such an agreement. There's a question of whether the public can be persuaded that this is a good idea. So there are certainly pros and cons," said John McCallum.

But the immigration minister-turned-diplomat would not say whether he believes the positives outweigh the negatives.

"Well, I am not going to say that. I am working for the government. I am part of the discussions leading up to a decision. What I am saying is there's a strong case for, but there are also arguments against," he said.

Officials from Canada and China have held several meetings since exploratory talks were formally launched earlier this year. McCallum said the two countries are getting along "extremely well" so far.

"It's all cylinders firing in terms of moving ahead on many fronts with China because it's really good for Canadian jobs," he said. "We want to pursue stronger ties with China but with our eyes wide open. We understand there are issues there."

While accepting an award in New York this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the need for progressive trade deals, with chapters on labour mobility and gender equality.

McCallum said getting a compromise between the two countries will take some time.

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