News Local

NAFTA change could affect Northumberland agriculture

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

NORTHUMBERLAND -- Published reports detail a number of concerns Canada's Foreign Minister is having with some U.S. proposals for updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and some of these are shared by the Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians.

In Monday's news report, Minister Chrystia Freeland, who heads up Canada's negotiations, laid out her concerns that included arbitration panels and termination of the trade deal if it isn't renewed every five years.

The U.S. proposal "would allow countries to bypass nation courts in tariff disputes," one report states.

Even before taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump was taking shots at NAFTA but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintains talks will go ahead in good faith.

"Nothing will distract us from the positive approach we're taking to those negotiations," Trudeau is quoted as saying in a published report.

NAFTA talks are to continue into 2018 after another round this month, although they were initially to conclude this year.

The local Council of Canadians Northumberland Chapter are continuing to watch NAFTA negotiations, and recently talked with local riding MP Kim Rudd about details they want to see included.

"I had a fruitful and in-depth discussion regarding NAFTA with members of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians, and have met with this organization several times since being elected," confirmed MP Kim Rudd after the most recent sitdown.

"I was happy to have their concerns raised to me directly. They are always knowledgeable, and provide an excellent resource to me in these matters."

Rick Arnold is a member of the local Council of Canadians' trade committee who attended a parallel event by civil organizations in September during the NAFTA negotiations in Ottawa.

The meeting between the local CofC and MP Rudd took place recently, and he provided the following overview of the concerns they discussed, and which was also sent to MP Rudd for her comments.

Among the CofC concerns discussed in the CofC summary were:

1. "The need to protect Canadian farmers, and local control over food and farm policies. This would mean protecting Supply Management presently existing in the dairy, egg, turkey, and chicken sectors. We noted that both Minister Freeland, and Prime Minister Trudeau had stated they would defend supply management.

"Ms. Rudd assured us that the Liberal government was firm in its resolve to protect supply management and that she personally supported supply management. She was aware of the significant economic contribution the farming industry made to Northumberland County and Canada. She also conveyed that she supported the need to protect food sovereignty and local control over food."

2. "The need to eliminate NAFTA Chapter 11, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) component. ISDS makes it less risky and expensive for corporations to invest abroad, and empowers them to sue governments over domestic policies that protect (for example) public health and the environment. This is done by going before an international tribunal of three corporate lawyers who can order that unlimited compensation be paid to the corporations by taxpayers.

"Ms. Rudd said that she understood that the Liberal government is seeking some amendments to the existing ISDS clause in NAFTA but did not know what they were."

3. "Have better representation from the Indigenous Peoples at the main negotiating table.

"That one place for the leader of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in a 13 person 'consultative committee' does not accord the respect that indigenous people are due by virtue of being the original inhabitants of North America.

"Ms. Rudd explained that this was more difficult than it initially appears since the "different First Nations do not feel represented by one body. For example, not all the First Nations feel represented by the AFN;" and

4. And better transparency about the outcome of the various rounds of negotiations.

While local groups like the Northumberland Chapter of Council of Canadians want the Liberals to push for gains through NAFTA, Trump continues to at least posture about walking away from the trade deal altogether.

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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