Talks on a new NAFTA agreement are scheduled to begin in Washington this week. Representing Canada will be Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland. The Canadian government has released the issues which it hopes to raise when negotiating a new agreement.
Both Canada and the United States want a reform of labour standards. They have identified Mexican wages as a threat to economic stimulus in both countries. Wages in Mexico are lower than that to their partners in the north. This allows them an advantage in certain industries, especially in auto-manufacturing.
In the context of the United States pulling out the Paris Agreement, Canada wants to see the environment enshrined into NAFTA. Minister Freeland is concerned that the United States or Mexico could lower their environmental standards in order to make themselves more competitive. This could have negative impact on the Canadian economy. It would also be disastrous in the battle against climate change.
Freeland wants to see a new chapter on gender equality inserted into the NAFTA agreement. Gender equality was a central theme of Justin Trudeau’s election campaign in 2015. Following his victory, he followed through by introducing a cabinet that had equal number of men and women.
Canada is seeking a new chapter on Indigenous rights. As a country it has had a troubled history with its treatment of First Nations people. As part of the NAFTA agreement, it seeking to further protect the rights of indigenous people in North America.
Investor-State Dispute Settlements
Freeland is specifically looking to address the issue of investor-state dispute settlements. Canada is heavily reliant on exports to the United States. Washington is looking to scrap the so-called Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism, under which binational panels make binding decisions on complaints about illegal subsidies and dumping. The United States has regularly lost such cases. Canada previously pulled out of trade talks in 1987 over a similar issue.
Canada has aimed to expand procurement contracts into the United States for a long-time. However, US industry is protected by a series of ‘Buy American’ rules which are designed to aid US made products. Trump campaigned during the presidential election to strengthen and enhance such rules. Canada is seeking to use NAFTA negotiations to change this policy.
Free Movement of Professionals
Canada is hoping for a freer move of professionals under NAFTA rules. Freeland is hoping to expand the list of professions that can avail of visas to work in the respective North American countries. Considering the immigration policies currently being pursued by the White House, it seems unlikely that the US will be willing to expand this list.
Protection of Dairy & Poultry Industry
Canada is seeking to protect its supply management of dairy and poultry products. Under current NAFTA regulations, Canada has the ability to regulate imports of these food products. It also has the ability to regulate prices.
Protection of Cultural Institutions
Freeland is seeking to protect cultural exemptions in a new NAFTA agreement. As part of the previous NAFTA agreement, it allowed Canada to protect its cultural institutions from US competition. This protects Canadian broadcasters, publishers and cultural acts.