By Michael Christianson
Kenora MP Bob Nault, who heads the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, led an all-party delegation of Canadian parliamentarians south of the border last week for meetings with their legislative counterparts, first in Mexico and later in the United States.
Nault’s trip was centered around one main question: do people want a NAFTA deal or not?
In Mexico City Nault met with legislatures and he says he got the feeling that while the average citizen may be fed up with Donald Trump and his approach to Mexico, those in government still want to see the deal remain.
“They asked us point blank as Canadian politicians whether we’re going to stick with Mexico with a tripartite arrangement or whether we would consider going it alone with a free trade agreement with the United States and our position has been very clear that we think it’s best to have the three countries in a NAFTA agreement similar to the one we have now,” said Nault.
The next stop of the tour was a day in New York City spent at the United Nations meeting with ambassadors and other key U.N. figures to get a sense of what is happening. Nault applauded Canada’s role in multilateral organiztions such as the U.N. and NATO and said Canada is pushing hard for a seat on the Security Council.
The final stop was in Washington D.C. where Nault says there is a new and complicated political landscape.
“The two days in Washington was really about us finding out from Senators, House of Representatives that we met, what’s going on with NAFTA? What’s the perception on the hill? And what are the politicians saying when they have those kinds of conversations,” said Nault. “To every single man/woman that we met everybody believes that there will be a NAFTA agreement. They’re obviously as frustrated as some of us are with the off the cuff comments the President makes and to some extent trying to negotiate through tweets and suggesting they’re going to rip up NAFTA because it’s a bad deal but most politicians you speak to in the United States are very much aware of the success of NAFTA from an economic point of view.”
Nault added that while Trump ran his campaign on ripping up NAFTA most politicans do not see it as a top issues for the USA; the biggest current issues are tax reform and North Korea.
Nault says that NAFTA will be a process that could take months or years to renegotiate and that with American Midterm elections next year, a Mexican Presidential election and Canadian Federal election on the horizon it cold be some time before all the pieces come together.