NAFTA Negotiations


Colin Robertson joined CBC’s Vassy Kapelos & Katie Simpson yesterday to answer social media questions on NAFTA:You can watch the full special episode on Power & Politics Here.

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Trudeau in California

Trudeau to meet with Amazon, eBay CEOs on 4-day U.S. trip

Prime minister to promote trade, look for investment while visiting Illinois and California

By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: Feb 07, 2018 4:00 AM ETLast Updated: Feb 07, 2018 10:36 AM ET

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to use his meetings with influential American CEOs to remind U.S. lawmakers about the importance of NAFTA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to use his meetings with influential American CEOs to remind U.S. lawmakers about the importance of NAFTA (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is gearing up for four days of critical meetings with lawmakers and business leaders as he heads out on yet another trade and investment mission to the U.S.

But Trudeau has one closed-door discussion planned that’s certain to get more attention than the rest.

On Thursday, he will be meeting with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. The tech giant is in the middle of its search for a second headquarters — and Toronto is on the short list.

Trudeau will be under pressure to make a strong pitch on Toronto’s behalf during his face-to-face meeting with Bezos.

Amazon plans to spend up to $5 billion US on its second headquarters, which it says will create 50,000 new high-paying jobs.

More than 200 cities in Canada and the U.S. bid for the facility, but Toronto is the only Canadian city still being seriously considered for the new location.

Canada’s largest city is up against several major U.S. hubs, including Boston, New York and Chicago.

Familiar trade pitch

The Bezos meeting is just one aspect of Trudeau’s trip south of the border.

Over the next four days, he will visit Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles to promote NAFTA and the importance of the Canada-U.S. trading relationship.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson calls these types of missions essential to the Canada-U.S. relationship.

“I think the one thing Donald Trump has taught us is that you can’t take the U.S. for granted,” he told CBC News.

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U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Trudeau at the White House on Oct. 11, 2017. ‘The one thing Donald Trump has taught us is that you can’t take the U.S. for granted,’ former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said of the current U.S. president. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“We do not make enough trips into the United States, given the relative weight of the United States and its importance on the Canadian economy.” 

The pitching begins in Chicago, where Trudeau will deliver a keynote speech today at the University of Chicago and participate in a discussion with David Axelrod, former U.S. president Barack Obama’s chief election strategist.

Before the event, he will sit down with several political leaders, including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who also served as Obama’s first chief of staff.

Trudeau is expected to use the meetings to remind U.S. lawmakers of the importance of NAFTA at a critical point in the re-negotiation process.

The sixth round of NAFTA talks ended in Montreal last month with all sides agreeing that progress has been slow.

Since then, new signs of hope have emerged that suggest a deal may be possible.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told an audience in Ottawa on Monday that he’s pressuring negotiators to wrap up discussions in the next two months.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told a U.S. House of Representatives committee that he believes a deal could be reached by December.

‘Go north’

Trudeau will shift his focus to the tech sector on Thursday as he heads to San Francisco, where he will meet with Bezos. But he also will sit down with other influential business leaders, including the CEOs of online shopping giant eBay and pharmaceutical developer Amgen.

The tech sector leg of the visit wraps up with a dinner at the Business Council to discuss new investment opportunities in Canada.

Trudeau’s pitch likely will include the fact that Canada has joined the new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP). The U.S. did not sign on to the pact, which also includes Japan and Australia.

“I think this might be of interest to some American exporters,” said Michael Kergin, Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S. “They can use some subsidiaries in Canada to work through the Asian markets as well.”

Kergin also said the business tax cuts introduced by U.S. President Donald Trump last month won’t necessarily hurt Trudeau’s pitch to the high tech sector.

“Knowing where you can get good markets and good people to work with you … I think is more important than the tax issue,” he said.

Trudeau also may look to urge Canadians working in tech industries in the U.S. to start coming home.

“There’s a ‘Go north’ campaign on right now,” Robertson said. “All the bright young engineers from Sheridan College that worked at Pixar … and from Waterloo that went down to Silicon Valley. If we can bring some of them back … that would be great for Canada.”

While in San Francisco, Trudeau will meet with more lawmakers, including California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Trudeau ends his trip with two days in Los Angeles. While there, he will deliver a second keynote address — this time to a primarily Republican audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Centre for Public Affairs.

Trudeau's U.S. tour

The prime minister is set to meet with some of the most influential leaders in the tech industry as he launches a four day trade and investment mission to the U.S. (Rob Easton/CBC)

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Trudeau to DC and Mexico

Trade troubles face Trudeau on trip to Washington and Mexico City

NAFTA tensions, Bombardier spat pose challenges for PM on 4-day visit to U.S. and Mexico

By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: Oct 10, 2017 5:00 AM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump take part in a joint press conference at the White House in February. Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, security issues and NATO with Trump during his stay in Washington.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump take part in a joint press conference at the White House in February. Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, security issues and NATO with Trump during his stay in Washington. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Katie Simpson is a senior reporter in the Parliamentary Bureau of CBC News. Prior to joining the CBC, she spent nearly a decade in Toronto covering local and provincial issues.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to talk trade, security and gender equality during his four-day trip to the United States and Mexico that begins Tuesday. But there is little doubt one of those subjects will get more attention than the others.

Trudeau is facing multiple trade-related challenges with both countries.

Talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have slowed and soured, with the mood expected to get worse, and Canada is frustrated by the U.S. decision to slap 300 per cent duties on Bombardier’s CSeries planes.

The softwood lumber dispute has also not yet been settled.

Trudeau arrived in the Washington area late Tuesday afternoon. He will also take questions during a keynote address at Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit in the evening.

Cultivating relationships

Trudeau will shift gears early Wednesday when he visits the congressional ways and means committee on Capitol Hill — an opportunity to share his message about the importance of Canada/U.S. trade with influential lawmakers.

On the eve of talks, U.S. President Donald Trump continued to threaten the viability of the deal, this time to Forbes.

“I happen to think that NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good. Otherwise, I believe you can’t negotiate a good deal… . [The Trans-Pacific Partnership] would have been a large-scale version of NAFTA. It would have been a disaster,” he said in an article published Monday.

“I consider that a great accomplishment, stopping that. And there are many people that agree with me. I like bilateral deals.”

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‘What would be terrible is completely going backwards and pulling out of this agreement’
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‘What would be terrible is completely going backwards and pulling out of this agreement’7:01

Despite the president’s renewed threats, Congress has some power to intervene.

“Congress is potentially our shield against an administration which is the most protectionist that we’ve seen,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

Robertson thinks it is smart for Trudeau to ramp up his so-called charm offensive with U.S. politicians outside of the White House. 

“This is something he will have to continue to cultivate,” Robertson added.

Face time with Trump

But the most anticipated moment of the trip will be Trudeau’s face-to-face meeting with Trump.

The pair have developed a positive rapport, according to a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, and are looking to further develop that relationship.

But their meeting takes place at the same time the fourth round of NAFTA talks begin, also in Washington. The PMO confirmed Tuesday those talks have already been extended so ministers from Canada, the United States and Mexico could all attend a meeting next Tuesday.

There is little positivity left at the negotiating table, especially as the U.S. is expected to make its most contentious demands during this round of discussions.

“I think they [the talks] are going poorly, they’re having difficulty even nailing down the low-hanging fruit,” said Jerry Dias, president of Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor.

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Trudeau and Trump speak at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

U.S. proposals on the rules for automobile content, dispute resolution and the dairy industry are expected to be unveiled this week. The U.S. has already been accused of making demands that neither Canada nor Mexico would ever agree to.

The PMO spokesman said Trudeau plans to discuss NAFTA, but noted that the real work is being done by negotiators behind the scenes.

Trudeau also plans to bring up Canada’s frustration with the U.S. Department of Commerce over the Bombardier duties.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been outspoken on this issue, calling the duties “baseless and absurdly high.”

Trudeau also plans to discuss security with Trump, integrated operations and NATO, according to the spokesman.

Freeland and her parliamentary secretary on Canada-U.S. relations, Andrew Leslie, will accompany Trudeau to Washington.

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Trudeau will move on to Mexico City Thursday for a meeting and state dinner with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Both face increasing pressures from the Trump Administration when it comes to NAFTA. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Meetings in Mexico

Trudeau will round out his North American tour with a stop in Mexico City.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has a full day of meetings planned with Trudeau and, again, trade will likely be the key point of discussion; so much so that International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will join Trudeau and Freeland for this leg of the trip.

Canada and Mexico hold wildly different positions on several aspects of NAFTA, most notably labour standards.

But the prime minister’s spokesman says other issues will come up, including gender equality.

Trudeau is also expected to take some time to visit some of the regions hard hit by two earthquakes that struck this past summer.

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Arctic Council

Canada-Russia-U.S. tensions could overshadow Arctic Council meeting

Foreign ministers gather for daylong summit on environmental issues, but broader talks likely By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: May 10, 2017 7:12 PM

Canada’s foreign minister is joining her Russian and U.S. counterparts Thursday for an intimate gathering to discuss environmental concerns in the north.

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But the conversations on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting will likely be of great interest, given the growing political tensions between the three largest participants.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are among the eight political representatives attending the meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The sit-down comes at a time of growing international instability.

A government source with direct knowledge of the summit said Canada is keen to stick to the issues on the agenda, but acknowledged there will likely be opportunities for “real conversations” in private on other topics.

Tensions in the room

The ongoing investigation of Russian involvement in the U.S. election could easily become a source of friction in Alaska, but there are also concerns involving Canada that could emerge.

Ottawa’s relationship with Moscow certainly hasn’t grown cozier in the wake of Freeland’s appointment as foreign minister.

Arctic Report Card

A fisherman drives a boat near the Arctic Circle in Ilulissat, Greenland. Northern issues are on the agenda at Thursday’s Arctic Council meeting, but other topics may be discussed on the sidelines. (Evan Vucci/Pool/Associated Press)

In March, she was targeted in a smear campaign appearing on pro-Russian websites that link her grandfather to Nazi Germany. When asked about the articles, Freeland warned Canada should be prepared for Russian attempts to destabilize its democracy.

Before she even took on the role, she was already subject to Russian sanctions, which ban her from travelling to the country. In 2014, Russia announced a series of retaliatory measures against Canadian officials after Canada levelled sanctions against Russia for its actions in Crimea.

Freeland and Lavrov have crossed paths before, but never in such close quarters.

Anti-trade rhetoric

Meanwhile, the Canada-U.S. relationship has changed dramatically. Since Donald Trump took office, Ottawa launched an intensive charm offensive to ensure key aspects of the Canada-U.S. relationship, like trade, continue to thrive.

Despite those efforts, Canada has been on the receiving end of Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric.

One former Canadian diplomat is urging Freeland to hold frank discussions in private with her counterparts, to speak to some of these growing issues. 

“Often the most important part of these are not what’s discussed in a public roundtable … it’s what takes place in the corridor, that’s what counts,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

Softwood and hacking

Robertson expects Freeland to seek out a private discussion with Tillerson, to address the ongoing softwood lumber dispute. Canada is threatening multiple trade actions against the U.S. in response to new duties imposed on Canadian softwood. 

“I think she’ll ask for a readout on where things are at,” Robertson said, adding Tillerson will likely want the same. 

Russian hacking is another issue Robertson thinks should be raised if Freeland is able to secure a private discussion with Lavrov.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland is representing Canada at the Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, Thursday. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

“We’ve got an election in Britain coming up, an election in Germany, where certainly all the signals are the Russians are playing their games again,” Robertson said. “So I think it is appropriate for Canada to raise this concern, and it’s appropriate to do it foreign minister to foreign minister.”

Arctic agenda

Freeland’s office said Canada will push several key issues at the meeting, including “advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” especially when it comes to addressing mental wellness, education and climate change.

According to a statement, Freeland will also look for a path to building a sustainable Arctic economy, and ways to encourage and preserve “science-based decision making.”

Whatever political tensions emerge at the summit, the government official said Canada is more than willing to co-operate with all Arctic nations on issues of mutual interest.

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