26 January, 2017
The NAFTA agreement came into effect between the three countries of the United States, Canada and Mexico in 1994, creating one of the world's largest free trade zones by reducing or eliminating tariffs on most products.
With U.S. president Donald Trump vowing to pursue border taxes, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and implement policies that put "American workers and businesses first", Canada has reason to be concerned.
In office now for only a handful of days, Trump has remained aggressive on his campaign promises to rework trade deals.
A central promise of Trump's campaign was that he would revamp the 23-year-old trade pact.
Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest is hailing any progress on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline as good for both market access and Canada's global reputation; but he worries any deal with U.S. President Donald Trump on increased profit could set a worrying precedent.
Meanwhile, Trump signed an executive order Monday to pull the USA out of the proposed 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Trump wants major changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has enabled Canada to send 75 percent of its exports to its southern neighbor.
Trump has said little about what improvements he wants, apart from halting the migration of US factories and jobs to Mexico.
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Trump Advisor Stephen Schwarzman, who is in Calgary meeting with the cabinet, says "trade between the United States and Canada is very much in balance and the way trade should be".
Remarks yesterday by Canada's ambassador to the USA indicate a possibility that Trump's protectionist platform could well splinter the accord, the Financial Post reported.
Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group investment firm, met privately with Trudeau and with ministers as part of a two-day cabinet retreat where the challenges posed by a Trump presidency were expected to dominate the agenda.
"I think they're receptive to that argument".
On Friday, news reports indicated an early executive action from Trump would be to take pipeline approval powers away from the State Department, which nixed the project under Obama in 2015.
It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration can negotiate more favorable terms with trade partners without slowing the cross-border flow of goods and services.
While there is now cause for optimism, Trudeau still has a lot of work to do preparing for an upcoming meeting between the prime minister and the US president within the next few weeks on NAFTA.
Experts, however, feel negotiating a better deal for the USA might take several years, also saying NAFTA's zero-tariff rate would be extremely hard to alter.