Rachel Notley talking trade in U.S. sends strong message to Trump, trade experts say

Trade experts in Arizona say meetings this weekend between Premier Rachel Notley, North American governors and business owners will put pressure on U.S. President Donald Trump to complete NAFTA negotiations.

Political and business leaders from Canada, U.S. and Mexico to discuss trade this weekend in Arizona

Premier Rachel Notley is in Arizona this weekend to talk about North American trade with business owners, premiers and governors from the United States and Mexico. (CBC )

Trade experts in Arizona say meetings this weekend between Premier Rachel Notley, North American governors and business owners will put pressure on U.S. President Donald Trump to complete NAFTA negotiations.

Notley is in Scottsdale, Ariz. this weekend to co-chair the 2018 Summit of North American Governors and Premiers.

"Just the fact that they're getting together sends a strong message to the Trump administration as well as Mexico and Canada on the importance of trade," Erik Lee said Friday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

Lee is executive director of the North American Research Partnership, a trade-focused think tank in Scottsdale.

NAFTA negotiations continue

The meeting comes as renegotiation continues over the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on Canada for aluminum and steel, but has pushed back a May 1 deadline to June 1 to allow more time for trade talks.

Lee said pressure on the Trump administration to reach a NAFTA deal is "intense" and "all-encompassing." Some of that pressure, he said, is coming from governors in Republican states, where farmers have benefited from NAFTA for years.

Lee said this "critical mass" of political and business leaders participating in meetings this weekend could have a significant influence on the trade negotiations.

"This administration does not have much of an attention span, so you have to keep it up, 24/7," he said.

More local negotiation

Experts say that since Trump was elected, they have been seeing more examples of Canadian officials meeting with state and city policymakers and business owners.

"We're seeing a lot of decisions being made premier-to-governors, more and more," said Glenn Williamson, the CEO and founder of the Canada Arizona Business Council.

Williamson organized a roundtable discussion on NAFTA with Notley and 15 CEOs Friday.

"To me, that is politicians getting a stronger grasp on the grassroots level, whereas they may have been having difficulty at higher up levels," he said.

Strong link between Alberta, Arizona

Canada has strong ties to Arizona, with hundreds of Canadian-owned companies operating in the state and thousands of Canadians owning homes there.

"A lot of noise is made about Mexico's importance to Arizona's economy, and it does have a big influence, but Alberta and Canada sure have a sizeable footprint as well," Lee said.

Williamson said he doesn't expect that relationship to change, even if uncertainty over trade restrictions continues.

"Alberta has more to worry about with B.C. and the Kinder Morgan pipeline than they do with relations with certain parts of the United States," he said.

He said controversy over the trade deal could be a good opportunity for legislators in all three countries.

"Sometimes a little bit of chaos and a little bit of rejiggering things causes people to have dialogues about things that they've just not talked about in a long time," he said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Notley said Alberta has "key expertise" to share with leaders across the continent.

"Being at the table will help strengthen our relationships with counterparts in the U.S. and Mexico to help expand trade and market opportunities, while ensuring continued support for our highly integrated supply chains and economies," she said.

With files from Ariel Fournier