The Canadian Consul General to Minneapolis says Canada is optimistic about the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Paul Connors was in Bismarck to speak to the Chamber of Commerce.
In an interview with Prairie Public, Connors said the negotiation is very technical in nature, and a lot of hard work for the negotiators from Canada, Mexico and the US. He said the work is going very well – in terms of making the agreement better.
"I'm not one of the negotiators, but we get debriefed on the progress," Connors saod. "I can tell you that some of those chapters have been updated and agreed to by the three countries, and on most of the chapters, we're almost there."
But Connors said there is what he called a “rain cloud” on the horizon – in that the US has put some troubling proposals on the table.
"All three countries have set as a goal to make it new and improved," Connors said. "We don't want to come out with anything that's taking away from the existing NAFTA."
Connors said in one instance, the US has proposed changing the current agreement's "exits clause." If one of the countries wants to get out of the agreement, it has to give a six-month notice. Connors said the US is proposing that every five years, the three countries have to proactively re-approve the treaty. He said the current “exit clause” language – that means the treaty continues without a re-approval – provides certainty.
"What you want to do is create an 'economic zone,' where our businesses can prosper, and take advantages of economies of scale," Connors said. "We think that's a good system."
Connors said Canada is worried that would be hurt by this proposal.
"We say to ourselves, 'Business is making investment decisions on 25 to 30 year cycles,'" Connors said. "So how does making this free-trade area renewable every five years improve on what we already have?"
Connors said it's Canada's position that it doesn't.