Canada is trying to convince the U.S. to remain in the North American Free Trade Agreement in the most Canadian way ever — with an outreach blitz that some Canadian officials call the “hug an American campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
As officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico continue with official negotiations, Canadian officials, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provincial governors to local businessmen, have waged a quiet lobbying effort to save the trade pact.
Canadian officials have held nearly 300 meetings with American leaders since President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, WSJ reports. Trudeau’s envoys have met with 16 secretaries in the Trump cabinet, more than 250 members of Congress, and more than 50 state officials.
“What we are depending on is that facts should win the day,” David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., told WSJ. Canada is ramping up the outreach effort because “while we are doing a better job of this, and getting people’s attention, we are not where we need to be,” MacNaughton said.
Trudeau’s efforts appear to be increasing, and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met Tuesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and was scheduled to meet with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, Bloomberg reports.
The latest lobbying effort could also be a way of building relationships in case the Canadian embrace fails to prevent Trump from ending NAFTA and Canada needs to establish a new bilateral trade agreement.
“The next question is, if [NAFTA] can’t be saved, how could Canada then get the best bilateral deal?” Eric Miller of Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., told WSJ. “Canada is becoming a lot more focused on the people who could influence that.”
The three NAFTA countries are set to meet for a sixth round of negotiations later in January, and Trump has maintained if the U.S. can’t get a better deal, he will withdraw from the pact completely.
“On NAFTA, I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers,” Trump said during a speech at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville, Tenn., Monday. “When Mexico is making all of that money, when Canada is making all of that money, it’s not the easiest negotiation.”
Canadian officials are quick to point out in their meetings with U.S. politicians that America has an $86 billion trade surplus with Canada, even though the U.S. has rising trade deficits — meaning it purchases more than it exports — with many other nations, including Mexico.
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