Harper signals openness to “deepen[ing]” NAFTA. Mulroney looks to the future, and shares thoughts on the power of trading alliances.
thestar.com shares Prime Minister Harper’s thoughts on reopening NAFTA:
U.S. President Barack Obama originally vowed to open NAFTA during his first presidential campaign. American officials have again expressed interest in opening the 20-year-old pact, Harper said.
“We’re interested in that as well,” Harper said during a chummy interview conducted by chamber president John Winter.
“We just have to remind our friends that if we’re going to open it, we’re going to open it in a way that benefits both of us, not just the United States.
“The United States sometimes expresses the view that NAFTA has certain loopholes. We don’t really see them that way,” he said to laughter from hundreds of people that packed a hotel ballroom for the morning appearance.
“We happen to think this was a balanced agreement, but certainly if we can deepen it in areas like labour mobility, access of professional services and government procurement, these are big areas where — if we could open up NAFTA and expand its application— it would be very good for Canadian and American business.”
Harper said the more modern agreements, in particular the South Korean deal and another signed with the European Union last year, are more comprehensive.
The agreements cover investment, government procurement, intellectual property, labour mobility and a host of other issues beyond tariffs, he said.
Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney also shares insights on NAFTA, and today’s Canada-U.S. bilateral relationship:
Is Canada doing enough to get back on Washington’s agenda?
I know that Prime Minister Harper has worked very hard at the relationship. But it takes two to tango. I was fortunate that I dealt with people like Reagan, Bush and Clinton. I was able to get their attention and keep it for the big deals—the Canada-U.S. FTA, NAFTA, the Acid Rain Treaty, the Arctic Sovereignty Treaty—because the president had decided for his own reasons to give Canada priority treatment. Today, I see enormous efforts made by the Canadians, but I’m not sure I see the full degree of reciprocity to which Prime Minister Harper and his colleagues are entitled.
Some are talking about the need for “NAFTA 2.0.” Good idea?
We have NAFTA. We have the framework we need. We’ve all benefited, but principally Mexico. I’ve read projections that, by the year 2050, it will have the fifth-largest economy in the world. They are in the process of showing what could be done by a free trade agreement for the Americas, because NAFTA was an agreement—for the first time—between two G7 countries and a developing nation. So I think NAFTA’s profile should almost be that of a battering ram, knocking down the attitudinal barriers that have existed for hundreds of years in Latin America. The salvation for Latin America, and for us all, comes in greater trading alliances.