About Colin Robertson

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and hosts its regular Global Exchange podcast.  He is an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.  Robertson sits on the advisory councils of  the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public PolicyNorth  American Research Partnership, the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa and the Conference of Defence Associations Institute  He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate.

During his foreign service career, he served as first Head of the Advocacy Secretariat and Minister at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and Consul General in Los Angeles as Consul in Hong Kong and in New York at the UN and Consulate General. A member of the teams that negotiated the Canada-US FTA and then the NAFTA, he is a member of the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council and the North American Forum.  He writes on foreign affairs for  the Globe and Mail and he is a frequent contributor to other media. The Hill Times has named him as one of those that influence Canadian foreign policy, most recently in their 2018 ‘top forty’.

Colin can be reached by email at cr@colinrobertson.ca

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Norms break down

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery; Pompeo en route

Turkish police officers gather as they prepare to enter the Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 15, 2018 6:20PM EDT 

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump appeared to be taking Saudi Arabia at its word Monday as he described how King Salman “firmly” and “strongly” issued a “flat denial” that he or his crown prince had any knowledge of or role in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

In describing his morning phone conversation with the king, the U.S. president repeatedly emphasized the strenuous nature of the ruler’s denials – even as he confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national and Washington Post columnist, who vanished inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi – a “Saudi Arabian citizen,” Trump noted, although he lived in the U.S. – was last seen entering the consulate two weeks ago. Turkish officials have said they have audio recordings that prove the journalist, a known critic of the Saudi regime, was killed inside, his body dismembered for easy disposal.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump said. “He didn’t really know – maybe, I don’t really want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows. We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.”

Turkish and Saudi investigators began Monday what Turkish officials call a joint “inspection” of the consulate – but not before a cleaning crew walked in armed with mops, trash bags and cartons of milk, said to be good for removing bloodstains.

American lawmakers have threatened tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain have jointly called for a “credible investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted a link to that statement Sunday, adding, “Canada strongly supports our allies on this important issue.”

Freeland said she spoke Monday with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, and remains in close contact with her U.S., German and British counterparts as the global community awaits more answers.

“Canada and our government has a strong record of standing up for human rights around the world, very much including in Saudi Arabia, and we’re going to continue to do that,” she said outside the House of Commons.

“It’s important to establish clear facts about what has happened, and it’s important for the international community to be clear that those facts need to be established in a clear and transparent manner.”

Turkish officials allege a Saudi hit team that flew into and out of Turkey on Oct. 2 killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who had written Washington Post columns that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The kingdom has called such allegations “baseless” but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left the consulate.

If the allegations prove true, experts fear it would be just one more example of autocratic rulers feeling emboldened by the slow disintegration of the international world order, thanks in large part to a White House that’s willing to look the other way.

“I do think the norms have eroded and the guardrails (have) come down under Donald Trump,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and foreign policy expert who serves as vice-president and fellow at the Calgary-based Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Robertson cited the brazen poisoning in March of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, an attack attributed to but denied by the Russian government, as just one instance of international malfeasance that seems to be filling the breach left by a lack of strong U.S. foreign policy.

“Autocrats are taking liberties – Skripal, drug hit squads, poison gas, trolls and bots and fake news, prison without trial. They believe they can get away with it because for the new sheriff it’s ‘America First,’ full stop.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Monday that Canada won’t shy away from taking up the cause.

“Canada will always be very firm … about standing up for human rights all around the world because Canadians expect it of our government,” Trudeau said in an interview as part of the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto.

“But the world also expects it of Canada – to be the clear voice saying, ‘You know what, this is right,’ or ‘This is wrong and you need to do better.’ And we don’t take kindly … to having people try (to) punish us for believing what we say.”

That appeared to be a direct reference to Saudi Arabia, which lashed out at Canada – recalling its ambassador, freezing trade, pulling students out of Canadian schools and even cancelling flights to Toronto – after a tweet from Freeland calling for the immediate release of detained activists, including Samar Badawi, a champion of women’s rights and the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi.

The kingdom flexed its rhetorical muscles Sunday, saying that if it “receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom’s economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

In the U.S., the Post has been publishing full-page ads in its front section in an effort to keep the pressure up.

“On Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 1:14 p.m. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,” reads the ad, which features an ominous-looking depiction of the consulate’s imposing double doors, adorned with the twin swords of the kingdom’s emblem.

“He has not been seen since. Demand answers.”

International business leaders have also been bailing en masse out of the kingdom’s glittering big-ticket investment forum, the Future Investment Initiative, including the CEO of Uber, billionaire Richard Branson, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.

Working the USA under Trump


A German breakdance troupe, the Flying Bach, recently performed in front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany)

October 7 at 10:00 AM

President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel don’t seem to like each other much, as he has disparaged her policies and leadership.But German breakdancers on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial may have reminded Americans that their countries are “Wunderbar Together,” the theme of a year’s worth of events.

Last year, Trump abruptly hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after an immigration dispute. But the Australian Embassy shrugs it off as just a blip as it celebrates “100 years of Mateship” this year, harking back to World War I battlefields where troops from the two nations fought and died beside one another.

And never mind the insults Trump has lobbed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada has dispatched members of Parliament and the cabinet on hundreds of trips south to find common cause with U.S. governors, state legislators and mayors on issues such as trade and climate change.

Long-standing allies whose leaders have had sometimes testy relations with Trump are increasingly keeping U.S. ties alive in ways that bypass the White House.

Faced with Trump’s volatility, a foreign policy that is constantly changing, and many vacancies in the State Department and other traditional venues for communication, some governments are employing what diplomats call the “doughnut strategy.”

“What many, many foreign governments are doing is trying to find ways to get around the problem,” said Nancy McEldowney, a former director of the Foreign Service Institute, which trains U.S. diplomats, and now a professor at Georgetown University. “When you have a problem in the middle, you work around it by building out a network that encircles the problem.”

The efforts to contact local and state governments, business leaders and civil society reflect the conviction that the United States is still an influential player in the world. So even countries that hoped to lie low until a new administration is in place have concluded that they can’t afford to do that. Some are already gaming scenarios for how to deal with a second Trump term.

In the meantime, some countries are making creative connections with Americans, far from the traditional halls of power in Washington. Germany is focusing on culture and heritage in its Wunderbar Together campaign, with a database for an estimated 50 million Americans who can trace their lineage to Germany. It is holding 1,000 events in every region of the United States in the next year, commemorating the 30th anniversary of German reunification. Last week, a German breakdance troupe, the Flying Bach, performed in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

German officials swatted aside questions about whether it has anything to do with the Trump administration, saying it is just the latest in a string of countries where they have held Wunderbar Together celebrations. But before he left Bonn for Washington last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged the differences between the two governments’ views on the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, trade and NATO military spending.

“Things that used to be taken for granted are no longer that way; they must be worked on,” he said.

Canada is taking a less public approach, enlisting cabinet members and business executives to make official visits to the United States.

“There’s no question we are upping our game since things became uncertain in our priority areas, like trade relations,” a Canadian official said of the uptick in official visits. “They are capable of engaging with the administration and Congress on our behalf.”

Early in the Trudeau-Trump relationship, Canada had tried a charm offensive stressing the importance of the connection, said Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center. But that proved insufficient during NAFTA negotiations and, ultimately, tariffs that Trump imposed in the name of national security.

Invoking national security deeply offended many people in a country that helped U.S. diplomats escape from Iran in 1979, welcomed passengers grounded in Newfoundland after the 2001 terrorist attacks and sent troops to Afghanistan.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat posted in Washington, said Canada has come to realize that it is not enough to train diplomacy only on the White House and Congress.

“The Trump administration is changing the game,” said Robertson, who now studies U.S.-Canadian relations at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “There’s a growing recognition we have to play the American system the way it was designed, with checks and balances, a separation of powers. Not just at the congressional level, but the role governors and state legislators play.”

Some countries are bringing forth a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Australia has largely escaped Trump’s ire since his hang-up call with Turnbull.

“Perhaps most crucially, the government has gone into overdrive trying to educate Trump on the history of shared military sacrifice over the last 100 years,” said James Curran, who teaches history and foreign policy at the University of Sydney.

Australia’s “100 Years of Mateship” is rooted in the centennial of the Battle of Hamel, a French town where U.S. and Australian soldiers fought along the Western Front. The idea of the Australian ambassador in Washington, the campaign came with a TV documentary, badges, stickers, posters and even a “mate ale” brewed in Texas.

“It is as if the government here thinks that the more it reminds the U.S. of how much we’ve been there for them on the battlefield, then they will surely come to help us in the event of a future military crisis,” Curran said. “But I wonder: Is anybody there in the White House or State Department really listening to these Australian clarion calls about ‘mateship’? After all, there is the old saying that ‘when you are living and working in Washington, you need to have very good peripheral vision to see Australia.’ That surely is intensified in Trump’s Washington.”

As foreign governments seek to get Americans to reflect on decades of friendship and mutual values, the historical reminiscences and cultural events represent a role reversal. A decade ago, U.S. diplomats worried that a new generation of Europeans did not appreciate how the United States had come to the continent’s aid during World War II and the Cold War.

“Now the tables are turned,” McEldowney said. “We have the Europeans concerned not only that the American public does not value them, but even the American president does not value them. No matter how awful it is, we still need each other and we need to recognize that.”

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USMCA Improvements

USMCA expected to improve investor confidence in Canada

  • Corwyn Friesen, mySteinbach
  • Posted on 10/05/2018 at 9:05 am

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute is confident a new trilateral North American trade agreement will help bolster investor confidence in Canada.

Canada, the United States and Mexico have successfully concluded negotiations aimed at creating a United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.

Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says from Canada and Mexico’s perspective it ensures preferred access to the largest market in the world and, for the United States, it illustrates to the world that, even with Donald Trump as President, they actually can do trade deals.

From a Canadian and Mexican perspective, it lifts the uncertainty about investment in Canada both by Canadians and by foreigners who look at Canada as an attractive destination. We’ve got a highly educated work force, we have energy, we’ve got capacity but if we don’t have access to the biggest market in the world they begin to think, why do we not we situate in the United States instead of in Canada.

But I think now that Canada has maintained and preserved its access to the United States as well as now having better access to the Pacific because of our membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and to Europe through the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement that puts Canada in, I think, a quite enviable position.

Importantly for North America it once again means that North America can operate as a kind of platform, particularly in manufacturing. And we’ve made improvements. There are chapters now on the environment and labour and that introduces a kind of progressive element. And we’ve added a chapter on digital commerce, something that was in both the European and the Pacific agreements but was missing from the former NAFTA.

~ Colin Robertson, Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Robertson notes the USMCA will run for a minimum of six years and it can be renewed twice so it can go to 18 years with revisions as we go along which provides and added measure of stability.

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USMCA not done yet

A proposed deal – not NAFTA 2.0 but, in deference to U.S. President Donald Trump who initiated this 13-month odyssey, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Judging by the market reaction, the USMCA should be good enough to thaw the chill shared by investors, both Canadian and foreign, since the negotiations began. We are not out of the woods – congressional approval of the necessary implementation legislation is no slam dunk and there is still the threat of further Trumpian protectionism, whether direct or through collateral damage.

The dairy lobby is aggrieved but they dodged a bullet. Supply management, a protectionist system badly in need of reform, is preserved. We gave the Americans about half-a-percentage more of the market than they would have received had Mr. Trump not pulled out of the Obama-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Even with the additional quota negotiated for the EU in the Canada-EU trade pact (CETA), more than 90 per cent of our dairy market is still protected for Canadian producers. It is also a sure bet that the federal and provincial governments will open their wallets to provide adjustment assistance to the afflicted, although for taxpayers’ sake there must be demonstrable proof of injury. There is no reason why our dairy farmers cannot become as successful internationally as our beef and pork, grains and pulse producers, especially given the growing appetite for protein in the Indo-Pacific.

The dairy lobby’s cry of pain is reminiscent of that heard from vintners after the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement (FTA) of 1988 opened up their market. Today their products are both very drinkable and sell more than ever before. The tentative new agreement means that U.S. wines will now share shelf space on British Columbians’ shelves with B.C. wines, but B.C. protectionism is the kind of non-tariff barrier that we rail against in other markets. Redress was overdue and it reminds us that, when it comes to protectionism, no nation has clean hands.

Canadian auto manufacturers have cause for celebration. It appears we have evaded Mr. Trump’s threatened 25-per-cent tariff and, even if trade is slightly more managed, the new rules of origin and the wage component could well create more opportunities, especially for Canada’s highly competitive parts manufacturers – our real niche in the global auto trade.

There is the potential for slight cost increases in pharmaceuticals with the extension of patent protection but provincial administrators are now very skilled at using their cartel power to get the best price from drug manufacturers. E-commerce shoppers can celebrate because purchases under $150 will now pass much more freely and our customs inspectors can focus on bigger game, including keeping counterfeits out of North America.

Our negotiators deserve a glass of sparkling wine (Canadian) but the USMCA is far from being a done deal. While majority governments in Canada and Mexico will be able to secure legislative implementation, passage in the next U.S. Congress is no sure thing.

We need to continue the advocacy campaign into the regions and within the Washington beltwayMost Americans still have no idea that their main export market is Canada and that jobs and prosperity depend on mutually beneficial trade and commerce. More than 300 Team Canada outreach missions made contact with more than 300 members of Congress, 60 governors or lieutenants-governor and most of the Trump cabinet. To protect Canadian interests this must become a permanent campaign.

 The premiers and provincial legislators must continue to play a critical role in reaching out to their counterparts and this should be a main discussion topic at the upcoming first-ministers meeting on trade. We need to increase our presence in the U.S. – a representative in every state should be our goal. Here again, the premiers can help through establishing offices in the states that matter most to them. Ontario is the province most dependent on the U.S. market. Instead of seeking federal handouts, Premier Doug Ford could learn from Quebec. La belle province has long had representatives in U.S. states. These representatives complement the work of our consulates.

Our dependence on the U.S. market – 75 per cent of our trade goes south – was used as leverage by Mr. Trump since only 18 per cent of U.S. exports head north. It is another reminder that we really do need to invest in trade diversification. We have deals with the European Union and with key Pacific partners, most notably Japan. How to realize opportunities opened by these agreements must be another discussion at the first-ministers conference. As with our permanent U.S. campaign, trade diversification must be a Team Canada effort.

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Winners and Losers US MCA

Who are the real winners and losers in the USMCA deal?

Canadian consumer will have more choice, says one researcher

From left to right, U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The three countries have reached a new trade deal to be called the the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA for short. (Kevin Lamarque, Daniel Becerril, Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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Canadian consumers are among the biggest winners in the new USMCA deal, according to a researcher who focuses on international trade.

“In terms of dairy, wine, the de minimis threshold — I mean, it was all in the right direction in terms of easier access to goods and services abroad, lower prices and greater variety for the Canadian consumer,” said Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at George Mason University.

The de minimis threshold for duty-free shopping — the amount that Canadians can buy in the U.S. and bring back across the border without having to pay a duty — increased from $20 to $150.

The new deal — set to replace NAFTA — has been criticized by the steel and aluminum sectors for not removing U.S. tariffs, but praised by the auto industry for stopping those same tariffs affecting them. The dairy sector is disappointed over concessions made to push the deal through, while the government has been praised for preserving the independent dispute resolution mechanism.

The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti was joined by trade experts from all three countries to help tally up the wins and losses of the USMCA:

  • Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat who helped negotiate the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and later NAFTA. He is now vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Antonio Ortiz-Mena, an economist who was part of Mexico’s negotiating team when NAFTA was first drafted. He’s now senior vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group, which provides strategic trade advice.
  • Christine McDaniel, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her research focuses on international trade and economics

    VOICE: I’m looking forward to signing this agreement with Presidents Trump and Pena Nieto. And I really would like to stress this will be good for workers in all three of our countries.

    AMT: There are wins and losses in the new US-Mexico-Canada agreement. Whose wins and whose losses? We’re asking. I’m Anna Maria Tremonti. This is The Current.

    Who are the real winners and losers in the USMCA deal?

    Guests: Christine McDaniel, Colin Roberston, Antonio Ortiz-Mena

    SOUNDCLIP

    VOICE 1: When the Prime Minister offered to renegotiate NAFTA, there were no sunset clauses, steel tariffs or auto quotas. And we already had a dispute resolution mechanism. So these are not new gains in this deal. So we had hoped that the government might negotiate gains for Canada, like an end to the buy America policy that cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

    VOICE 2: Canadians are pleased today that we are moving forward on a historic record that stabilizes, secures and offers certainty to investors to Canadian businesses, but mostly to workers and folks in the middle class.

    AMT: So was it a win for Canada or not so much? You heard Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau going back and forth there yesterday in the House of Commons over USMCA, the United States Mexico Canada agreement, is set to replace NAFTA. I’m joined by trade experts from all three countries to help tally up the wins and losses for all involved. Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat who helped negotiate the Canada US Free Trade Agreement and later NAFTA. He is now vice president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He is in Mexico City. Antonio Ortiz-Mena is an economist who was part of Mexico’s negotiating team when NAFTA was first drafted. He’s been head of economic affairs at the Mexican embassy in the U.S. He’s now senior VP at the Albright Stonebridge Group, which provides strategic trade advice. He’s in Washington, D.C. And for the U.S. Christine McDaniel is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her research focuses on international trade and economics. She is also in Washington. Hi everyone.

    CHRISTINE MCDANIEL: Good Morning.

    ANTONIO ORTIZ-MENA: Hello.

    AMT: First of all, USMCA, is anybody calling you US-M-CA or anything like that? Like what are we calling it?

    CM: We’re calling it USMC.

    AMT: For now.

    CM: We’re trying to out how to say it really quickly.

    AMT: OK. I’m going to go around the table quickly and just get a sense of what you see as the most important gain for each country. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, let’s start. Most important gain for Mexico, quickly.

    AOM: Quickly, the fact that there is a new agreement as opposed to just endless uncertainty, in general. Specifically I’m quite obsessed about dispute settlement mechanism. So I’m glad to see that there is a strong dispute settlement mechanism. I think apart from that everything is less important.

    AMT: Colin Robertson. Hello, Colin. Colin Robertson did we lose you? OK while we try to find him, Christine McDaniel very quickly, what do you see as the most important gain for the United States?

    CM: Well I think the biggest gain right now is just the sense of relief you know that we averted disaster. And you know investor confidence hopefully will be built back up you know to the extent it was sort of on the brink there.

    AMT: OK. Colin Robertson what do you see as the biggest win for Canada?

    CR: Well I think I agree with Antonio that dispute settlement mechanism, but importantly the market certainty. You saw the market track yesterday that we now have a deal in the kind of zombie NAFTA zone. That wasn’t good for Canada or Mexico. That having access now once again to the biggest market in the world is important for Canada.

    AMT: Colin Robertson, I want to ask you I’m looking at the CBC opinion page today. Neil Macdonald has a piece where he says that under this deal, if Canada wants a trade deal with China, it must signal its intent ahead of time to the United States. It must submit the text of any deal to the United States and then accept Washington’s verdict on that.

    CR: Well I think what it says is, if Canada has an agreement with a non-market economy and I think you’re going to get some dispute as to because China is a member of the World Trade Organization, but is it a non-market economy. But it’s not a clause I’ve seen before, others have commented on it, Peter Clark as well. We’ll see how what it means in application.

    AMT: And doe that worry you? Given that Canada the real push that came out yesterday from various sectors in Canada was to say Canada needs to diversify so it doesn’t end up on a precipice again.

    CR: No because I think what that there is pressure on China, Canada is part of that steel reduction and things to bring China more fully into how we trade amongst nations and I think the more likely you would see efforts to bring China into what we now call the comprehensive from progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which I think is going to become the benchmark for trade agreements in the Pacific. And Canada and Mexico are both members of that and I see that as more likely to be the new benchmark and the encouragement to bring China into that and China will have to take on certain obligations.

    AMT: Let’s talk about some of the losses. Colin Robertson, we heard some negative reaction from dairy farmers on concessions regarding U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market. Canada has says it will compensate dairy farmers. What are we looking at there?

    CR: Well if the United States had joined the Trans-Pacific partnership, we would have given the United States an additional three and a half percent 3.25 percent quota. Instead we’re now giving them I think something like 3.75 percent quota. We’ve given the Europeans about 3 percent quota. So 90 percent of the market is still very much in Canadian hands, so it’s a very small increase. And as you pointed out, the governments, provincial and federal, have offered compensation. We did something similar with the wine industry after the negotiations of the Canada-US free trade agreement and you know it really did turn around our wine industry. Now we sell Canadian wines all over the world. So I think rather than looking at it defensively, we should be looking at it the same way our beef and pork, our grains and our pulse, we we are world gangbusters. I don’t see any reason why our dairy producers and you think of the superb cheeses we produce, strictly out of Quebec, why we can’t turn that around and become real international competition as we are in other parts of the agriculture sector.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, if Canada is going to compensate the provinces and the federal government, dairy farmers for any losses. Is that how does the United States see that, does that go against free trade?

    CM: Well that’s their prerogative to do. You’ll recall that the United States is doing something similar or are considering doing something similar on agriculture in terms of the effects on US farmers from retaliation from China and others. So you know as long as it’s within the WTO rules and you stay within those parameters then it’s the country’s prerogative to do that.

    AMT: And so what’s the reaction in the United States that this deal has given more access to the Canadian dairy market?

    CM: Well I think it’s positive. It’s definitely in the right direction. I think you know one of the bigger winners here are the Canadian consumers. You know in terms of dairy, wine, the de minimus threshold. I mean it was all in the right direction, you know in terms of you know easier access to goods and services abroad, lower prices and greater variety for the Canadian consumer.

    AMT: Let’s talk about wine for a minute. In BC, the wine industry is going to have changes because the winds have traditionally had exclusivity in grocery stores in the province. Listen to Karen Graham, a wine industry consultant.

    SOUNDCLIP

    VOICE: For the BC wine industry it means a few different things. Some of them certainly today or by November 1, 2019 to be feeling the pinch a little bit in terms of increased competition on BC wine and grocery store shelves.

    AMT: Colin Robertson, there’s unhappiness on that front. What do you think?

    CR: Well this is an example of a kind of what we call non-tariff barriers. No nation is immune from protectionism and essentially what was being practiced in British Columbia was protectionism on behalf of the local vintners. Now again, I say BC makes a very good product. The BC wines are going to have to share shelf space with wines from the US and others. Something we really should have been doing under our NAFTA obligations. And this was sort of rectified in this agreement. I don’t see a problem because I think if you like BC wines, you’re still going to be seeing BC wines, but when you go in and you look at their shelf, you’re now going to have more choice. Yes, some of it is coming from the States, but you’re still going to have the BC wines there. It is up to the consumer to choose, which one he wants to get. And the fact we’re now in accordance with obligations we really undertook under the original North American Free Trade Agreement.

    AMT: I want to ask about the auto industry. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, how will changes in that sector impact Mexico?

    AOM: Well I think that the auto agreements are both a win and a loss for Mexico. I think they’re a loss because Mexico would have preferred to keep the original regional content rule of 62.5 percent regional value added. The fact that it went higher and that it has some wage related requirements means that the rules are pretty complex, they’re cumbersome and some companies might opt to trade under WTO rules, which only provide 42.5 percent tariff. And there’s also a side agreement whereby both Mexico and Canada have a guaranteed quota of 2.6 million autos to be exported from Canada or Mexico to the US, should the US impose new tariffs on autos, under national security laws. So I think that the rules again are very high. They could be cumbersome to implement and we’re looking at a world where this is some sort of an insurance policy. Why do we talk about quotas when we didn’t have quotas 25 years ago? The only way to understand that is we’re entering a new more protectionist world. So this sort of a sthe new agreements insurance policy provision. That’s the way I see it.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, you’ve said you’ve had mixed feelings on this. How so?

    CM: Well I think you know the North American auto industry has been a relatively competitive on a global scale, but US, Mexico, Canada, automakers in the region, they need access to globally competitive priced inputs. You know I mean if was profit maximizing for them to have you know done some of these things in the past, then they would have been doing that. So you know this is you know putting a restriction on how much you know particular firms in a particular sector must pay their workers, restrictions on where they can get their inputs, at what price and how much. You know these are things that will restrict automakers in the region. You know in a time where you know the real growth is in Asia, so we want a strong competitive globally competitive automotive sector. And these restrictions do not necessarily align with that you know investor confidence.

    AMT: Colin Roberston, I’ll just get you to be brief on the impact for Canada because I want to go to one more topic too.

    CR: No, we’ve moved to similar to what we have in lumber, we’ve moved to manage trade in autos. Keep in mind this is something Donald Trump was insistent on and I make the bigger point is that these negotiations were not initiated by Canada or Mexico. This was very much initiated by the United States. I think the fundamental reason is that Canada and Mexico, 75 percent of our trade is with the United States. Only 18 percent or 17 percent of US trade is with Canada or Mexico. So the US exercised, under Donald Trump, exercised that leverage. I think we’ve come out of this OK. Is it perfect? No, but I think we’re in any trade agreement you take wins and losses and I think overall this is good. And you saw the market reaction, the fact we still have continued access to the biggest market in the world, that’s important for Canada Mexico.

    AMT: Colin Roberston, what about patent protection on certain drug classes being extended another two years. There are concerns that that could really affect provincial pharmacare plans and Canadians buying drugs.

    CR: I think that’s correct, although the cost of that through and the fact that we act as a bit of a cartel when we buy the drug. So yes there’s an additional two years protection for a particular stream of drugs called biologics. But you’re correct, Anna Maria, is the potential for slightly higher costs over a period of time is there, but mitigated in part by the fact that Canadian provinces who are the sort of administer the health care, do act as a cartel to try and get best prices from those they’re buying from.

    AMT: Christine McDaniel, we know the pharma lobby in the United States is one of the biggest lobby is that they had to get this deal. What was going on there?

    CR: Well remember back in our TPP days, they were lobbying very hard for 12 years on data exclusivity protection for biologics. And you know the end of the day, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, many others, banded together and really blocked that effort by the United States to do that. So the US was not able, it did not look like it was going to be able to do that in TPP. The fact that you know it appears to have sort of twisted Mexico’s arm and then for Canada join in they had it you know reluctantly agree to something that they apparently didn’t want to do earlier. You know that’s I think that’s interesting. Although they didn’t get, US didn’t get the full 12 years, they got 10 years.

    AMT: I’ve got music coming up. Means we’re running out of time. Thank you all of you for weighing in on some of these issues today.

    CM: You bet. Thank you.

    AMT: That’s Colin Robertson, vice president and fellow at Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Antonio Ortiz-Mena, senior vice president of the Albright Stonebridge Group and Christine McDaniel at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Stay with us. This is The Current.

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NAFTA Deal:

How Trump’s Freeland broadside factored into getting a trade deal done


WASHINGTON — From deep within the pantheon of diplomacy that is the United Nations came hardly a warning shot or a red flag — it was a rocket-propelled rhetorical grenade aimed directly at Canada, with a concussive blast that reverberated all the way to the Prime Minister’s Office.

And it just might have been the catalyst for the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“We’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada. That’s the motherlode, that’s the big one,”  U.S. President Donald Trump said last week during his explosive news conference on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much.”

That “representative” was Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — the senior cabinet minister leading Canada’s trade delegation to rescue NAFTA from a president who won the White House in part by denouncing the agreement as one of the worst deals ever made.

It wasn’t Freeland’s hard-driving negotiating style that was under Trump’s skin. It was her appearance on a panel in Toronto two weeks earlier dubbed “Taking on the Tyrant” that featured a video montage with Trump alongside autocrats like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump learned of it only the day before, said a source close to the talks who was briefed by insiders on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

“Somehow it got back to the president,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about the details. “At that point, we saw everything that happened on Wednesday.”

That morning, before Trump’s news conference, U.S. Ambassador David MacNaughton spoke at an event in Toronto with U.S.-based website Politico, where on a scale of one to 10, he put the chances of the two sides being able to reach a deal at “five.”

After Trump’s news conference, “the only difference was that instead of seeing the glass half-full, I was seeing it half-empty,” MacNaughton chuckled in an interview.

He soon found himself in Ottawa, a critical part of a full-court press to get an agreement done before the Sunday midnight deadline imposed by the U.S. Congress to get the deal fast-tracked and voted on by Dec. 1, ahead of a new incoming Mexican government.

Canadian sources close to the talks say MacNaughton’s easygoing style and political acumen — honed as co-chair of multiple provincial and federal Liberal election campaigns, and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s principal secretary — proved invaluable.

It’s MacNaughton who ensures federal cabinet ministers are ushered onto Capitol Hill during Washington visits to forge one-on-one relationships with American lawmakers — relationships that bore fruit during the latest round of talks, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and U.S. consul general who was part of the team that negotiated the original Canada-U.S. free trade deal and later NAFTA itself.

“This new focus on Capitol Hill — when legislators come down, they go to Capitol Hill in recognition that Congress really, truly counts, and the cabinet ministers, who are also legislators, have got to recognize that they can use those peer-to-peer relationships.”

Indeed, Canadian influence in Congress may have helped discourage U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer from trying to push senators into approving the bilateral deal he forged with Mexico, said Dan Uczjo, an international trade lawyer in Ohio with the U.S. firm Dickinson Wright.

As talks came down to the wire, Lighthizer encountered resistance on Capitol Hill to approving a deal that didn’t include Canada.

“You saw three things come together,” Uczjo said.

“The general course of the deal started to be more positive, the USTR became concerned there may be some procedural challenges to his deal with Mexico from the Hill, and I think the White House wanted to ramp up the pressure and started repeating its threats about auto tariffs.”

The president became aware of Freeland’s attendance at the “Tyrant” event as a plot to prevent Trump from meeting the prime minister at the UN and agreeing prematurely to a deal, a source said.

Forces within the USTR office — including Lighthizer himself — were determined to wear Canada down on the issue of the dispute resolution mechanisms embedded in the old NAFTA.

“The president’s issue is dairy … and those discussions were actually going fairly well over the last couple of weeks,” said the source, prompting fears the “dealmaker in chief” would agree to a deal in principle with Canada if he met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the UN.

“On Tuesday, all the rumblings were that Trump and Trudeau were going to meet at the General Assembly — in fact, senior-level U.S. officials were telling stakeholders that at private dinners, luncheons, receptions in Canada and the U.S.,” the source said.

A deal seemed imminent, worrying those within the USTR who were convinced they weren’t yet done, said the source. So the nuclear option was deployed: telling the president about Freeland and reminding him about the summer G7 meetings in Quebec, where Trudeau’s closing news conference so agitated Trump that he used his Twitter feed to attack the prime minister from the confines of an airborne Air Force One.

“All of that was done less about blowing up the NAFTA deal, but to stop Trump from making a quick deal.”

In the end, the dispute-resolution mechanisms from NAFTA remain largely intact in the new deal, that Trump christened the USMCA.

His victory-lap news conference Monday also drove home the point to all concerned that unpredictability remains the watchword in Canada-U.S. relations. As Robertson said MacNaughton told him last week, “Whether we get a deal or not, the campaign continues — it’s a permanent campaign.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Trump and Trudeau

Trudeau rebuffs Trump’s trade talks criticisms

BY MICHEL COMTE (AFP)     SEP 27, 2018 IN POLITICS

Any fondness between Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump has vanished, it became clear Thursday after the Canadian leader brushed off the US president’s criticism of Canada’s negotiating style in continental trade talks — casting doubts for a quick deal.

Trudeau said Trump views the negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as hard “because Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be.”

Those efforts have stalled after a year of talks, despite ramping up in recent weeks after the US and Mexico made a breakthrough on bilateral issues.

According to the negotiators, Canada’s insistence on a trade dispute provision and its refusal to open up its protected dairy sector are the last major sticking points.

Ottawa is also seeking assurances that the United States will not, after signing a new NAFTA deal, turn around and hit Canada with punitive auto tariffs.

Canada’s ambassador to Washington David MacNaughton this week put the chance of concluding an agreement soon at 50/50.

“A good and fair deal is still very possible,” Trudeau said. “But we won’t sign a bad deal for Canada.”

On Wednesday in New York, Trump said he refused to meet with Trudeau on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly because Canada was treating the United States “very badly.”

“I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along with their negotiators,” Trump said. “We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time.”

“With Canada, it’s very tough,” he said, adding that there was “still a chance” of reaching a deal.

“I’m not making (a deal that is) anything near what they want to do,” the American president added.

Trudeau’s Liberal government had launched a charm offensive in Trump’s early months in office to try to curry favor with the new president.

But their close relationship — once the envy of other foreign leaders — came to a crashing end following a divisive and bad-tempered summit of G7 nations in Canada in June, which saw Trump ramp up his rhetoric against Trudeau.

– September 30 deadline looms –

While Trudeau has tried to keep his head down and avoid further antagonizing Trump, he also has stood firm in demanding a fair deal in the trade negotiations.

“I think (the Canadians) gave it their best shot,” Colin Robertson, a former Canadian trade negotiator who helped deliver the original 1994 NAFTA, told AFP.

He said Trudeau tried for a good working relationship with Trump, “but at some point (he) realized it just wasn’t working.”

Observers said Canada now appears to be using Trump’s September 30 deadline for a NAFTA deal to try to get concessions from the Americans.

Trump would prefer to have the current Republican-controlled Congress ratify a deal before the November mid-term elections, and hold it up to voters as a win.

“Everyone is playing hardball,” said University of Ottawa professor Patrick Leblond. “Canada doesn’t care about the deadline and figures that if the US does, it’s up to them to make compromises.”

“The big question is what will Congress do?” he said.

If the Democrats sweep the November elections, they may wish to deny the Republican president any political wins going forward, and insist that Canada be part of any new continental trade pact.

If the Republicans maintain their majority, they may support Trump’s wishes — including killing NAFTA and moving forward with a US-Mexico trade agreement, without Canada.

“It’s a high stakes game (Trudeau’s) Liberals are playing right now,” Leblond said. “But they have no choice.”

If Trudeau caves to Trump’s demands for more access to its dairy sector, for example, his party would take a hit in next year’s general election.

If he holds firm and Canada loses its special access to the US market under NAFTA, it would be “catastrophic” for the Canadian economy — likely pushing it into a recession — as well as politically devastating.

“Canada is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t,” opined Leblond.

“Given that, it makes sense for Canada to take a chance that the Democrats take Congress and will be more open to Canada’s position,” he concluded.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/trudeau-rebuffs-trump-s-trade-talks-criticisms/article/533167#ixzz5SmADhrg3

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NAFTA Deal? No slam dunk

NAFTA’s future is uncertain, but here’s one plausible scenario

Negotiations might be about to go on hiatus…until 2019, and separate U.S. deals with Canada and Mexico loom as a very possible outcome

by 

Chrystia Freeland speaks to the media during the seventh round of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) talks in Mexico City, on March 5, 2018. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been more than a year since the NAFTA renegotiations foisted on Canada and Mexico by U.S. President Donald Trump started, and so many so-called deadlines have come and gone since then that the word has lost its bite.

But this week, say senior Canadian government officials who spoke on condition they not be named, is different. The reason: When Trump announced his surprise bilateral agreement in principle with Mexico last month, he started a clock ticking that requires him, under the U.S. law known as the Trade Promotion Authority, to deliver the text of that deal by Sept. 30 to the U.S. Congress.

There’s still a slim chance that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bargaining team will come to terms with Trump’s hardball negotiators over the next few days, in time to turn that bilateral U.S.-Mexico deal into a trilateral pact that includes Canada. But that looks increasingly like an extreme long shot.

The top-tier negotiators aren’t even meeting. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, hand-picked by Trudeau to handle NAFTA, is at the United Nations in New York this week, tending to other international files. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s powerful lead on NAFTA and other trade files, was also in New York, where he said on Tuesday, “The fact is, Canada is not making concessions in areas where we think they’re essential.”

READ MORE: When it comes to NAFTA, deadlines are meaningless

Predicting what happens next is fiendishly difficult. Several sticking points remain far from being resolved, including Canada’s stiff resistance to U.S. demands that NAFTA’s dispute-settlement mechanism be scrapped. As well, the machinery of domestic U.S. and Mexican electoral politics is bringing complex moving parts into play. A new Mexican president is slated to be sworn in on Dec. 1, while U.S. mid-term congressional elections, which could shake up both the Senate and the House of Representatives, are coming in early November.

Still, stipulating that there are too many political and policy variables to predict anything with much confidence, a Canadian official sketched the following scenario as one that’s emerging as a distinct possibility:

  • Trump delivers to Congress the text of his bilateral deal with Mexico as scheduled on or before Sept. 30, and soon after asks Congress to grant his administration new authority to negotiate a bilateral deal with Canada.
  • Congress takes the allotted 60 days to consider the U.S.-Mexico deal already finalized, and 90 days to study the Trump administration’s plan for bargaining toward a separate U.S.-Canada deal.
  • Assuming Congress accepts the U.S.-Mexico pact, Trump signs that deal with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto by late November, before Pena Nieto is succeeded in December by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the new Mexican president elected in July.
  • In early 2019, the U.S. Congress, likely reshaped by those midterm elections coming up in early November, takes up the work of ratifying the U.S.-Mexico deal. And, at roughly the same time, fresh Canada-U.S. talks pick up where this fall’s frustratingly inconclusive sessions left off.
  • That means ratification of the U.S.-Mexico deal and negotiation of a possible U.S.-Canada pact are happening in tandem, making it possible they could still be combined into a trilateral NAFTA 2.0. Another possibility: parallel bilateral trade deals between the U.S. and its two former NAFTA partners.

There are lot of assumptions built into that sequence, many of which are wide open to debate. Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the actions of the U.S. Congress are just one serious question mark.

Will Congress accept that bilateral U.S.-Mexico deal, or insist on an agreement that includes Canada? Robertson says Democrats fired up by the battle over Senate confirmation of Trump’s controversial Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, appear to be in no mood to give any Trump proposition—including the bilateral U.S.-Mexico deal—an easy ride. “To assume it’s a slam-dunk in Congress, I just think is wrong,” Robertson said. “That would be my read watching the Democrats over the last weeks.”

Indeed, U.S. politics in the age of Trump are turbulent beyond the experience of any of the Canadian politicians or trade officials embroiled in these prolonged NAFTA renegotiations. Their hesitance to forecast anything is only prudent. But this much is clear: a future in which the nearly 25-year-old NAFTA is split in two is a prospect that Canadian officials are now mapping out seriously. This week’s deadline matters, and might even be looked back on one day as the start of the post-NAFTA era.

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Top Forty Influencing Canadian Foreign Policy

NAFTA players top Canada’s 40 most-influential foreign-policy minds

By SAMANTHA WRIGHT ALLEN, NEIL MOSS      
Insiders and observers weigh in on who impacts Canada’s decisions on diplomacy, trade, defence, development, and immigration.
As NAFTA dominates Canada’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Chrystia Freeland, left, are No. 1 and 2 on The Hill Times’ Top 40 Foreign Policy Influencer list. They’re seen walking to the National Press Theatre on May 31 to announce retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

When it comes to who is influencing Canadian foreign policy, there’s the people working on files related to the United States, and then there’s everyone else.

The constant focus of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with an adversarial United States President Donald Trump has necessarily sucked resources and attention, including the near total focus of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Though The Hill Times set out to list the top minds shaping Canada’s foreign policy, those working on relations with the United States emerged as the most important players, with other influencers on the outskirts.

Past lists have stacked 80 influencers but we’ve halved that number after hearing from insiders who questioned how much the government follows talking heads, and the extent to which even those in government affect policy in what is repeatedly described as a “PMO-driven” approach.

Some in the centre, the Prime Minister’s Office, don’t have a particular affinity for foreign affairs, but their impact is central nonetheless on policy, which critics say too often is formed with domestic affairs in mind.

While the United States and officials working on relations with it have always enjoyed outsized importance in Canada, key players in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation were among the most common who came up as influencers in our discussions.

Through more than two-dozen interviews with insiders, policy analysts, former diplomats, and senior government officials, The Hill Times developed this list of the top 40 people influencing Canadian foreign policy. Though the formula for making the list is unscientific, actors earned their spot based on access to power, demonstrated ability to effect change, experience—or simply because they’re in a powerful job. And, because those who offered insight were often working in or closely with the government and spoke frankly, their names are not cited.

Many ministers earned mention, and a few just barely missed the mark, including Marc Garneau, who chairs the cabinet committee Canada-U.S. relations and trade, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, a trade lawyer who’s one of this government’s more visible in cabinet. We could have easily mentioned retiring G7 sherpa Peter Boehm, who was lauded as one of the last true foreign service officers to rise through the ranks to the level of deputy minister.

New Democrats are absent from the list, following feedback from sources who questioned whether the party should crack even the top 40, with one source suggesting the New Democrats don’t have the same influence as when former foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar or defence critic Jack Harris were in the House.

Still, a couple government officials said outgoing MP Hélène Laverdière, the NDP foreign affairs critic, deserves mention for her thoughtful, results-focused approach to issues even while criticizing the Liberals. Another progressive voice, Alex Neve, who heads the English section of Amnesty International Canada, was mentioned as raising the human rights group’s profile with the Liberals compared to the ostracism it faced under the Conservatives. Mr. Neve and Ms. Laverdière have both had strong voices, applying pressure on the Trudeau Liberals’ relationship with Saudi Arabia.

For this year’s list, we’re offering a clear top five (in four spots) and the rest are broken down by category.

Top players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

Canada’s top federal politician will always count, but this celebrity PM makes an extra splash during trips abroad. With eyes on the south, Mr. Trudeau has taken up a sort of anti-Trump persona domestically and internationally, with much of his work on bilateral relations walking that fine line of sticking up for Canada while ensuring sensitive talks on issues like NAFTA can continue. In June, Canada hosted the G7 summit in Quebec amid heightened trade rhetoric and insults Mr. Trump tossed at Mr. Trudeau on his way out of Canada. Mr. Trudeau’s tough response helped him gain in public opinion polls, but he’s not always hit the mark on foreign policy. Some of the PM’s high-profile trips over the last year, including to India and China, have been notable for producing gaffes, and showing a lack of on-the-ground research. While Mr. Trudeau lets Ms. Freeland take the lead, in a government that determines its foreign policy at the centre, he’s the centre of it all.

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

In many eyes, Ms. Freeland could just as easily take top spot because her role is so important. As foreign affairs minister, said one former diplomat, she’s the “most effective since Lloyd Axworthy,” who literally wrote the book on Canada’s place globally and served in the cabinets of three prime ministers. Her tenure has been shaped by two blockbuster speeches—in Parliament and in Washington accepting Foreign Policymagazine’s prestigious Diplomat of the Year Award—denouncing populism and a decline in internationalism. Though she can be a bit of a lone wolf, one source observed, the former journalist hand-selected her advisers and enjoys the complete trust of the PMO. And, after the India debacle, she has a “sort of carte blanche,” in her file though she plays to the PMO.

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary and longtime friend is always mentioned in the same breath as chief of staff Katie Telford, making them a clear tie for third. The two don’t have a specific official role on foreign policy, but all decisions go through them. When asked to separate their roles on foreign matters, sources are hard-pressed to offer much distinction, though they say Mr. Butts is more policy-minded and is more concerned about environmental issues (he’s the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada). So tight is their connection to Mr. Trudeau, one described it as a “three-legged race.”

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

As with her counterpart Mr. Butts, Ms. Telford is “critical on every file,” whether it’s trade, defence, or visits abroad. While the two are “pretty evenly balanced,” she seems to take more interest in the government’s feminist foreign aid policy, diversity, gender equality, and human rights, insiders said. Ms. Telford runs the daily operations in the PMO, having been one of Mr. Trudeau’s top advisers since before the Liberals took government, running his leadership bid back in 2013.

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Mr. MacNaughton has a level of influence not experienced by anyone in his post previously. He serves in a ministerial capacity, and has a home in the inner circle. He was described by one source as having more power than any minister in cabinet other than Ms. Freeland. He has the complete trust of the PMO, particularly with Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford. The trio were key players in the Liberals’ 2015 federal campaign (Mr. MacNaughton was the Ontario co-chair) and their connection goes back to Queen’s Park a decade ago working for then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Mr. MacNaughton launched and led StrategyCorp, a government relations firm where Ms. Telford also worked. He’s adept at building connections—an essential component in Washington during delicate NAFTA negotiations—but he reaches the realm of senior adviser on other issues.

Politicians 

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

First elected in 1974 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was prime minister, Mr. Goodale, who first held a cabinet post in 1993, has been described as having an “incredibly important and valuable” role in the Trudeau government and has been called “the adult in the room.” A former diplomat said he was the “shrewdest and most senior” within cabinet. Some rank Mr. Goodale as the third most important minister after Ms. Freeland and new Trade Minister Jim Carr. He is important in Canada’s national security and on border issues, responsible for intelligence agencies, and sits on both foreign policy-focused cabinet committees. He is in constant contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

A passionate advocate with a “business-minded” approach, the immigration minister has emerged as a strong voice at cabinet, sources said. His portfolio matters too, with the Liberals promising to increase the number of newcomers to 340,000 by 2020. His background, having fled war-torn Somalia to come to Canada, also informs some of his work and support for “causes that he believed in intensely.” He’s done a lot of work in Africa, and was also praised for playing a part in the July 2018 international rescue operation of White Helmet first responders in Syria, which meant “critical coordination” between Global Affairs Canada and his department.

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Though just a few months into this more globally-minded post, he is said to be among the stronger in cabinet and was a key voice lobbying for “diversification” to be added to his ministerial title. That goal of drumming up more trade outside the U.S. is now the “Holy Grail” for this government, as it remains mired in NAFTA confusion. Several observers said the level of the former natural resource minister’s influence is yet to be determined above that of the institutional importance of the post, but it is likely to increase. He is the “pinnacle of a respected voice,” said one senior official, describing Mr. Carr as collegial and a bridge-builder.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister  

Ms. Bibeau, who has served in the role since the start of the 42nd Parliament, is one of the ministers on the list with less influence. She serves on the Canada in the World and Public Security cabinet committee. She has an important voice in the room due to her position, but it is not a dominant one compared to some of her cabinet colleagues. She is in charge of quarterbacking the government’s feminist foreign aid policy.

Harjit Sajjan, defence minister

While the defence minister is a position that should always be on the list, there was clear disagreement among the 20-plus sources surveyed about Mr. Sajjan’s inclusion. Some said the veteran of the Afghanistan war had to be included, while others questioned his influence, seeing him staying in the background. He has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, including by claiming he was the “architect” of a big combat mission in Afghanistan, when he wasn’t. The defence minister’s position typically is one of great influence with its close co-operation with Washington and NATO, especially with Canadian soldiers currently deployed in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Mali. One source said, in theory, he has importance, but he doesn’t drive policy in the same way that Ms. Freeland and Mr. Carr do. Some suggested that Zita Astravas, Mr. Sajjan’s chief of staff and a former senior PMO staffer, has more influence than he does. But others pushed back on that idea.

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

There was contentious debate over which member of the official opposition should be in the mix, if at all. Some said if a Tory MP were to be included, it should be the leader, Andrew Scheer who is set to make a bigger international splash with his eight-day trip to India next month, but others saw foreign policy as a platform gap, and not an issue he’s spent much time on. Many of the Conservative statements about foreign policy don’t come from the leader, but from Mr. O’Toole. One source said Mr. O’Toole hasn’t made the international connections as Ms. Freeland did as a backbencher in a third party during the 41st Parliament. He’s the Conservatives’ loudest foreign policy voice, but the former air force captain has not been as effective as he could be.

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Inside the PMO’s Canada-U.S. war room, Mr. Clow monitors Canada’s relationship with the United States around the clock. Since the government is so focused on dealing with its southern neighbour, Mr. Clow has added importance. He is charged with the political strategy behind the NAFTA renegotiations, and along with Ms. Freeland, he is key to shaping the negotiations politically. He previously served as her chief of staff when she was the trade minister. Mr. Clow serves as an important link between Global Affairs and the PMO. He also monitors Canada’s “charm offensive” in the United States. Some say he has more influence than Ms. Freeland’s chief of staff Jeremy Broadhurst and PMO policy adviser Patrick Travers, but less than Mr. MacNaughton.

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

As Ms. Freeland’s right-hand man, he’s often by her side on the many trips to the United States and abroad. He has her confidence and is part of the inner circle in the PMO, having worked as deputy chief of staff and principal secretary in the PMO before he moved to his current role in January 2017. He has “outsized influence,” given that connection to Mr. Butts, Mr. Trudeau, and Ms. Telford. He brings a lot of institutional knowledge on foreign affairs to debates, one source observed. That comes from his background working under Liberal leaders Bill Graham, who served as foreign affairs and defence minister, Stéphane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff.

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Ms. Deschamps-Laporte took on her post in January 2018 and has impressed observers with her depth of knowledge, described by one as “brilliant.” She’s a former Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, a distinction she shares with her boss. Originally from Repentigny, Que., she studied international development and modern Middle Eastern studies and can speak French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic. She’s helping push the feminist foreign policy approach within the office, but in the heat of NAFTA she does the hard work of keeping Ms. Freeland briefed on everything, including working at the core on security files. She’s “emerged as a really critical voice at the staff level on everything,” said one senior government official.

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

The issues-management specialist moved to Mr. Sajjan’s office from the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2017, in the midst of backlash surrounding the minister’s claim her was an “architect” of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. Sources said she’s strong, effective, and a “crucial” staffer who enjoys the PMO’s trust, but doesn’t necessarily play into the policy side of things. A couple sources said she’s more influential than Mr. Sajjan, while others pushed back on that assessment. A former Queen’s Park staffer, she recently took an unpaid leave of absence to join the Ontario Liberal campaign war room, and has worked in three previous Ontario provincial elections in various tour- and communications-related roles.

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

A former chief of staff to Stéphane Dion when he was foreign affairs minister, Mr. Ovens still has an influential role stickhandling Mr. Carr’s office. Mr. Ovens comes from the mining industry, having spent more than 10 years at BHP Billiton and Alcan (later bought by Rio Tinto), which makes him a natural fit with his new boss, who was the previous natural resources minister. He was appointed chief of staff to Mr. Dion in 2015 and took the same role in the international trade minister’s office when François-Philippe Champagne had the post.

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

With the “whole world on his plate,” Mr. Travers joined the PMO in January 2016 from his job as senior policy adviser at the United Nations. He’s considered a sharp guy, who’s at all the meetings with Mr. Trudeau when discussing global affairs, but many questioned the degree of his influence given that he’s not a member of the senior PMO staff. While his files touch everything, insiders say he doesn’t have a key role on NAFTA, nor is he in charge of international development, or gender issues. He’s the key contact point in the PMO on international affairs for liaising with all the ministers’ offices and is good at listening and asking what the office is missing. That said, he does offer recommendations, one source noted, on policy that makes it before the PM, and that holds weight. He was also key in co-ordinating the G7 summit in Quebec in June.

Civil servants and military

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Mr. Hannaford was the first civil servant who briefed Mr. Trudeau on election night, and sources say that close connection has continued throughout the Liberal mandate. He’s considered the “focal” person at the apex of the civil service, above even the Privy Council clerk, and crucial for his advice on all things foreign policy. Even more important, he’s trusted by and “enjoys the full confidence” of the those in the Prime Minister’s Office. He’s a constant on key trips, travelling with the prime minister. He’s a very capable, highly regarded officer who has a legal background, working in both the human rights and trade divisions of the foreign ministry. He also held a high-profile, trusted position under the Conservative government after returning from his post in 2012 as ambassador to Norway.

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator has had a busy summer as he tries to reach a renegotiated NAFTA with the United States and Mexico. Mr. Verheul was the chief negotiator on the CETA trade pact with the European Union, where he developed close ties with then-trade minister Ms. Freeland. He has been called the “best of the best” under tough circumstances. He has more influence than his boss, Timothy Sargent, just behind Ms. Freeland and Mr. MacNaughton. Mr. Verheul, described as a calm voice who uses logic and comes up with solutions in a highly charged and unpredictable atmosphere, is behind the policy and substance of NAFTA. One source called him “one of the most important minds and operators” behind trade policy of his generation.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Canada’s highest public servant is a post that will always hold weight on foreign affairs, but insiders say Mr. Wernick is a good delegator who knows what’s going on but trusts other officials to take the lead. He doesn’t micromanage, and chooses his moments to offer insight from his vantage point of institutional importance, but lets Mr. Hannaford remain the focal point for the PMO. Nevertheless, he’s a very influential person who’s been in the role since almost the start of the Liberal government’s mandate. The 37-year public servant was deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to cabinet in the Conservative government’s final years.

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

While Mr. Verheul has been described as more influential, his boss Mr. Sargent is considered “brilliant” and “creative.” He is an adviser on all things relating to trade, who is confident enough to let his own people and trade advisers offer substantial input. Mr. Sargent is relatively new to the trade file, starting the job in October 2016, after being an associate deputy minister at Finance Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He has a history of leveraging expertise while inputting his own judgment in his dealings with ministers. Mr. Sargent is less of a player at the prime ministerial table than others.

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

His importance is tied to his post as someone Ms. Freeland relies upon. Like Mr. Sargent, he is very involved, though not one to elbow his way into things. He doesn’t come from a foreign affairs background, having moved to Global Affairs Canada in May 2016 after serving as deputy minister for Employment and Social Development Canada as well as Environment. But that breadth of understanding is a benefit, one source said, because he can consider domestic aspects and “the impact of foreign policy beyond the bubble of the Pearson Building.” This government has given more voice to the civil service, making Mr. Shugart’s post more powerful than in the past. With so many working and focused on the U.S. frontlines, Mr. Shugart’s eye is on the rest of the world and people listen to him when he speaks.

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

A cautious bureaucrat, Ms. Bossenmaier has a powerful role and is seen as a deliberate choice. Before her appointment in May, she earned that trust overseeing Canada’s cyberspy agency, Communications Security Establishment. She doesn’t have the same influence as her predecessor, Daniel Jean, who retired earlier this year after controversy surrounding the PM’s India trip, but most sources say it’s too early to have much of a read on her and the post will always matter. She’s a “very competent administrator,” seen to offer knowledge and insight, but it remains to be seen whether she emerges as an assertive voice that has policy influence. She has a deep background in foreign affairs, having worked in senior roles at the Canada Border Services Agency and in the Privy Council Office’s onetime Afghanistan Task Force.

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

The chief of defence staff of the Canadian Armed Forces always plays an important role in the execution of Canada’s defence policy. Mr. Vance, the commander of Canada’s Afghanistan mission in 2009 and 2010, has been the chief since 2015. He has been described as a “good soldier,” but not seen to have a huge impact shaping policy. On the other hand, one source said inside the Department of National Defence, he and Jody Thomas—DND’s deputy minister—have a significant impact on how defence policy is formulated. On the topic of generals, multiple sources say retired general and now Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who is the parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, has little influence over policy, but is a good communicator and promoter of the government’s policy.

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

As Canada looks to diversify its trading relationship in light of stalled NAFTA renegotiations, Ms. Campbell is leading the charge. She is actively involved in changing how Canadian export promotion operates. During a time of concern over diminishing foreign investment in Canada, she is charged with growing international capital. Ms. Campbell has developed a deep network, aided by work she did with John Manley, the former deputy prime minister and the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. While she is very involved in trade promotion, she may not be as key to crafting trade and foreign policy. One source said she is taking a leadership role in putting the diversification aspect of Canada’s foreign policy into action. Another called her a “force to be reckoned with.”

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

Based in New York where all the world’s top diplomats reside, Mr. Blanchard wields a key position lobbying for Canada’s bid to win a non-permanent United Nations Security Council. His impact is beyond that work, drawing mention for his efforts on the government’s feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work to stop the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He’s at the top tier among political appointees, behind only Mr. MacNaughton in prominence. The lawyer is known as one who develops personal relationships and can bring people together. His relationship with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has proven to be important.

John McCallum, ambassador to China

This former six-term MP was named to this job in January 2017. He’s got extra weight because of his political profile, having been a Liberal minister for national defence, veterans affairs, national revenue, and immigration during 16 years in Parliament. He’s well-liked in China and is seen as sympathetic to the Beijing leadership. Some observers questioned whether he missed warning signs during Mr. Trudeau’s December 2017 trip to China, when Canada didn’t advance past exploratory trade talks, but a government source said that result doesn’t diminish the calibre of advice.

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

When Ms. Freeland was deciding who to lead the NAFTA renegotiations, she had to make a choice between Mr. Verheul and Kirsten Hillman. Instead, Ms. Hillman was tapped for the high-profile deputy ambassador to the U.S. post, where she’s frequently called upon for her depth of trade knowledge. Ms. Hillman was Canada’s chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. She forms a good partnership with Mr. MacNaughton, with whom she works often on many trade files; together they serve as an important connector for Canada in Washington. While Mr. MacNaughton focuses on the political, she brings her deep knowledge of the technical side of trade. One source called her the “smartest diplomat” Canada has.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has helped the government work a strategy on the United States. Described as a “Trump whisperer,” he’s known for his friendship with longtime neighbour Mr. Trump, in Palm Beach, Fla. Both publicly and privately, people listen to what he says and he’s among those who are on the regular call list for all things NAFTA. At the outset, the government engaged him in its charm offensive. But that influence isn’t the same as in the beginning, described as “way down” by one former diplomat, who said that Mr. Mulroney’s advice to flatter the mercurial president “was harmful” and didn’t get Canada ahead.

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

The former Liberal justice minister is held in high esteem and is consulted on human rights matters. His efforts were especially evident in pushing the government to pass Bill S-226,  the Sergei Magnitsky Act, which sailed through the House of Commons unanimously in October 2017. He’s someone who has an audience and is held in high regard (one source called him a “national treasure”) as a 16-year MP. He and Bob Rae represent an important historical voice in the Liberal Party that speaks to human rights, which the government listens to. Former Liberal cabinet ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock have also earned mention as “heavyweights,” but mostly for their work on refugee issues with the government.

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Though she didn’t play on the same team as the Liberals while in Parliament, Ms. Ambrose is a member of the government’s NAFTA advisory council along with fellow former Tory minister James Moore, who was also frequently mentioned as an influential and co-operative Conservative, but she eked out a slight advantage. One source called her “very influential” on NAFTA. She appears to have more influence than her former boss, ex-prime minister Stephen Harper. Some observers suggested if he had any influence it was through the media, as he does not have a close relationship with Mr. Trudeau, like fellow ex-PM Brian Mulroney does.

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Whether to put Mr. Trump’s envoy to Canada on this list led to some heated debate, in some cases provoking laughter at the idea. Several sources said it’d be the first time they would advocate to keep the U.S. ambassador off the list—her critics say the U.S. now has reduced presence in Ottawa. But, observers have a tendency to underrate her importance, a well-placed source suggested. She’s “incredibly well plugged-in,” is present at key meetings, and has offered high-ranking introductions and access to officials. She facilitated Mr. Garneau’s Kentucky Derby visit with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the first meeting between Ms. Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. She’s also formed a tight relationship with her Canadian counterpart, Mr. MacNaughton.

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Chair of the finance minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Mr. Barton’s voice continues to be sought out by government officials. He’s extremely trusted and held in “high esteem.” He’s a respected business leader known for heading one of the world’s premier managing consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and as of Oct. 1 is taking over as chairman of mining giant Teck Resources. He “knows China inside out,” and has helped tip opinion on some key economic Asia files, said one insider.

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Despite having left his primo post to return to academia six months after the Liberals swept into power, two years later his name still holds weight. Among academics, his is “the name du jour,” said a former diplomat, an insight in line with the following observation: “When people think Canadian foreign policy, people think Roland Paris,” said one. He’s an internationally respected scholar and his fingerprints are “all over” Mr. Trudeau’s founding foreign policy platform. When Mr. Trump was elected, sources said Ms. Telford called Mr. Paris to form a group advising the government on what to do. With his large platform, he’s considered one of the government’s biggest boosters, while some suggested he can serve as an outlet offering tougher talk (like calling the president a “man-child”) without the political cost. On background, sources said it’s not clear why he left the PMO, speculating that Mr. Butts and his team were going in a different direction, more focused on the domestic impact of internationalism. Even so, most sources had the impression that Mr. Paris “still has an inside track” and remains engaged with and can earn attention of top officials.

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

When Justin Trudeau went to Washington in his first visit to Donald Trump’s White House, Linda Hasenfratz was at his side. Ms. Hasenfratz is the co-chair of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, which was formed out of that first meeting to Washington, and is a project spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and adviser. Linamar is Canada’s second-largest auto parts manufacturing company and is a multi-billion-dollar business. Ms. Hasenfratz sits on the government’s NAFTA advisory council too. She has been described as the government’s “go-to” person on the business side of things.

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

As ambassador to Washington during the original NAFTA talks, Mr. Burney is called upon by reporters and the PMO Canada-U.S. war room alike for insight. His name is often mentioned alongside former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, whom he served as chief of staff during the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Now a senior strategic adviser at Norton Rose Fulbright, the experienced negotiator is someone the U.S. team in Canada has regular talks with.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress 

Labour groups have taken on increased influence under the Liberal government. Government officials speak with Mr. Yussuff frequently, including Ms. Freeland, and he was “instrumental” in helping the government on CETA, and getting support from progressive elements. His union represents 3.3 million workers. While Mr. Yussuff’s voice is not as apparent in the public eye, compared to Unifor’s Jerry Dias, he has a post on the government’s NAFTA advisory council—a distinction some sources took care to note. Still, Mr. Dias represents Canada’s largest union in the private sector. Dogged in his work on NAFTA, Mr. Dias often speaks of his direct line to Ms. Freeland and her chief negotiator Mr. Verheul. He’s a loud advocate, “incredibly plugged-in, and a constant “whether you want to deal with him or not,” one official said jokingly.

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

This former national security analyst with the government has become increasingly prominent on social media and is often quoted in news reports and featured on TV panel discussions. She offers a substantive perspective that senior government officials said they listen to in part because she’s “an influence-shaping voice” that has reach. She focuses on domestic and international security, international law, terrorism and technology and has a PhD from the London School of Economics. And, having been in government, she provides a good critical perspective on how it regulates and manages the intelligence sphere, making her among academics who matter.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Though no observers suggested she’s got much of a say on policy, her importance is tied to her position as a member of the inner circle—and as one who’s playing a more a prominent role as Canada’s “First Lady” than past prime ministers’ partners. Several suggested that influence played out poorly during the India trip debacle, given the Trudeau family’s over-the-top dress. The same sources were just as quick to blame Mr. Trudeau and his office’s poor taste, but said her part in that decision shouldn’t be discounted. An advocate for women and girls, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau is also involved with a number of charities, including being a national ambassador for Plan Canada’s “Because I Am A Girl” initiative.

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

A negotiator on the original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Robertson’s voice still has impact in the foreign policy arena. However, there is some debate as to how much the government values his voice. Mr. Robertson is quoted often and a frequent columnist on NAFTA, which may be where his influence is greater. A former consul general in Los Angeles, as well as head of the advocacy secretariat and minister in Canada’s Washington embassy, he worked in the Canadian foreign service for 33 years. He sits on Mr. Sargent’s NAFTA advisory council. A former ambassador described him as “sensible, informative, versatile, [and] productive.”

The Hill Times

The top 40 influencing Canadian foreign policy 

Key players

1. Justin Trudeau, prime minister

2. Chrystia Freeland, foreign affairs minister

3. Gerald Butts, principal secretary to the prime minister

3. Katie Telford, chief of staff to the prime minister

4. David MacNaughton, Canadian ambassador to the United States

Politicians

Ralph Goodale, public safety minister

Ahmed Hussen, immigration minister

Jim Carr, international trade diversification minister

Marie-Claude Bibeau, international development minister

Harjit Sajjan, national defence minister

Erin O’Toole, Conservative foreign affairs critic

Political staffers

Brian Clow, PMO director of Canada-U.S. relations

Jeremy Broadhurst, chief of staff to the foreign minister

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte, policy director for the foreign minister

Zita Astravas, chief of staff to the defence minister

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to the trade minister

Patrick Travers, PMO global affairs policy adviser

Civil servants and military personnel

John Hannaford, foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, Privy Council Office

Steve Verheul, chief NAFTA negotiator

Michael Wernick, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet

Timothy Sargent, deputy minister for international trade

Ian Shugart, deputy minister of foreign affairs

Greta Bossenmaier, prime minister’s national security and intelligence adviser

Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff

Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner

Diplomats and former politicians

Marc-André Blanchard, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations

John McCallum, ambassador to China

Kirsten Hillman, deputy ambassador to the U.S.

Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th prime minister

Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

Rona Ambrose, former Conservative interim leader

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to Canada

Business and labour reps, academics, and others

Dominic Barton, incoming chairman of Teck Resources

Roland Paris, former foreign policy adviser to the prime minister

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar

Derek Burney, former ambassador to the U.S.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor of international relations, Carleton University

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of the prime minister

Colin Robertson, former Canadian diplomat

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NAFTA Deadlines

September 16, 2018

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is facing pressure to return to Washington this week in a bid to conclude a NAFTA deal under a deadline set by the Americans.

Ms. Freeland will be in Ottawa for the resumption of Parliament Monday, where the Liberal government will be defending the view expressed by her and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that no deal is better than a bad deal when it comes to the North American free-trade agreement.

Top-level negotiations could resume as early as Tuesday between Ms. Freeland and her American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a federal government source said. But that has yet to be decided.

 Ms. Freeland and Mr. Lighthizer are expected to talk by telephone Monday to discuss whether she should return to Washington on Tuesday for more negotiations, the source said. Mr. Lighthizer signalled to the Canadians that he would be available if warranted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

Several trade experts said she is likely to make the trip given that she is working under a tight timeline to reach a deal that would prevent the United States and Mexico from moving forward with a bilateral agreement as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened.

Mexico wants an agreement concluded before incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on Dec. 1, and the U.S. administration must give Congress 60 days’ notice for a final text, meaning a Sept. 30 deadline. As well, Mr. Trump is keen to announce a new deal − which he wants renamed as the U.S.-Mexico agreement, or the U.S.-Mexico-Canada accord − prior to the November congressional elections, which are being billed as a referendum on his polarizing tenure in office.

“It’s do or die time for a trilateral deal if the goal is to get it done before Lopez Obrador takes office,” said Maryscott Greenwood, Washington-based chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council.

Ms. Greenwood said Canadian and American negotiators are making slow progress, but added that the United States appears willing to make some compromises. She noted that the U.S. side softened its position in a number of areas to reach an agreement in principle with Mexico late last month.

One veteran trade consultant questioned whether the end-of-month deadline is a real one.

“I think a deal is doable but we don’t have to be rushed,” said Colin Robertson, a former trade negotiator and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He said there is no reason that Mexico’s incoming president, Mr. Lopez Obrador, could not conclude the deal that was reached with his blessing by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto

“We’ve had these false deadlines before and this seems to me to be the weakest of them all,” he said.

Ottawa could disregard the deadline and take time to pursue a more favourable deal, while counting on Congress to block the administration’s effort to exclude Canada from the trade agreement, Mr. Robertson said. Leading members of Congress and the American business community have said that any new trade deal must include Canada, but Mr. Trump is threatening to impose crippling tariffs on the Canadian auto industry if there is no trade deal.

Key stumbling blocks continue to be U.S. demands that Canada provide significantly greater access to its dairy industry and Ottawa’s insistence on maintaining the Chapter 19 dispute-settlement mechanism that gives parties the right to challenge one another’s application of duties and punitive tariffs. There are several other outstanding issues, including the U.S. desire for greater patent protection for a class of drugs known as biologics; Canada’s demand to have access to U.S. government procurement; and an American push to increase the value of purchases that Canadian shoppers can bring back duty free from the United States.

While Mr. Trump would clearly like to tout his success in renegotiating NAFTA for the mid-term election campaign, he will need Congressional approval to pass it into law. He already faces resistance there, but it will be far tougher for him if the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives as many pollsters and pundits now forecast, said Dan Ujczo, an Ohio-based international trade lawyer who has worked for the Canadian and U.S. governments and closely monitors the NAFTA talks.

Concluding the negotiations “are the least difficult part of what is left to do to complete a new NAFTA,” Mr. Ujczo said. “Getting this through Congress is going to be twice as hard as it was the first time around back in the 1990s, given the politics of trade in the United States right now.”

But Canada cannot count on Congress turning down a new deal and keeping the old one in place, he added. Instead, the Trump administration would likely abrogate the existing deal at the same time it puts the new one before Congress.

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