Malpeque MP Wayne Easter says a resolution passed last week by an association of U.S. legislators is a positive sign that policymakers are eager to conclude a NAFTA deal that includes Canada.
The Council of State Governments-West passed a resolution on Sept. 15 that celebrated the “commitment of the U.S. and Canada to NAFTA” and voiced support for a trilateral trade deal which “results in the removal of tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods”.
The CSG is a forum which brings together U.S. representatives and senators to discuss issues of regional concern. CSG-West’s member states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Alberta and B.C. are associate members.
The majority of voters in six of these 13 states (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming) chose Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
As co-chairman of the Canada-U.S. inter-parliamentary group, Easter made a presentation before the annual meeting of the CSG-West earlier this month.
“I’m very pleased they have passed that,” Easter said, of the pro-NAFTA resolution.
“I do see this as a major success in these kinds of times.”
“Many in Congress – in fact most – want us to get to a deal.”
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter
Easter said there is widespread support among U.S. legislators for a trilateral NAFTA agreement, and for an end to tit-for-tat trade tariffs. Easter said the comments of Trump and of U.S. trade negotiators have overshadowed the support that he has seen among legislators for a conclusion of a NAFTA agreement.
“Many in Congress – in fact most – want us to get to a deal,” Easter said.
Easter criticized the position of the Trump administration on the negotiations. He said Canadian trade negotiators have shown a willingness to make concessions.
On the other hand, Easter said Trump’s tactics “will injure all three countries, including the Americans.”
Trump has threatened to impose further punitive tariffs on Canadian auto exports and has suggested excluding Canada from a deal reached with the government of Mexico.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “very likely” informal talks between Canadian and U.S. negotiators would take place in the midst of meetings of the UN General Assembly on Monday.
In the recent best-selling book “Fear”, by U.S. journalist Bob Woodward, which is an insider account of the first year of the Trump administration, Trump is described as being obsessed with imposing steel tariffs on several countries, including Canada. The book described multiple attempts by internal White House staff to dissuade Trump from withdrawing from the NAFTA agreement. These attempts included the removal from Trump’s desk of an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from NAFTA before the president could sign it.
Gary Cohn, the top economic advisor to the president, had hoped removing the executive order would prompt Trump to forget about it, according to Woodward’s account.