Trudeau sends more ministers to U.S. amid NAFTA and border tax worries

With U.S. President Donald Trump hoping to renegotiate NAFTA and others suggesting the imposition of a border adjustment tax on imports to the U.S., the Trudeau government has been at pains to stress how the American economy benefits from access to Canadian consumers.

Liberal government tries to stress mutual interests with outreach at federal, state and municipal levels

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is on his way to Florida this week as part of the Trudeau government's efforts to remind American lawmakers of Canada's importance to the American economy. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Three more ministers from Justin Trudeau's cabinet will be in the United States this week, as the federal government continues to lobby American leaders and lawmakers about the importance of maintaining unfettered trade between the two countries.

With U.S. President Donald Trump hoping to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and others suggesting the imposition of a border adjustment tax on imports to the United States, the Trudeau government has been at pains to stress how the American economy benefits from access to Canadian companies and consumers.

That effort has expanded beyond the Trudeau cabinet's dealings with its American counterparts to include outreach at the state and municipal levels, with Canadian ministers targeting a list of 11 key states.

This week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau will travel to Florida (where he worked during his career as an astronaut), while Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will go to California.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in Indiana to meet with the state's governor and tour CN Rail's train yards in Gary. 

'Economic and strategic' ties

"The ties between our two countries are economic and also strategic," Trudeau told an audience in Houston, Texas, last month. "This is the most successful economic relationship in the world, supporting millions of middle-class jobs on both sides of the border.

"Canada buys more from America than does any other country. We are the number one customer of two-thirds of U.S. states, and in the top three for 48 states."

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also recently travelled to Des Moines, Iowa, where he and Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, met with state leaders.

In addition to Florida, Texas, Iowa and California, the Liberals are targeting Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and New York.

The Trump administration has circulated a draft letter with some of what it might be looking for in a renegotiation of NAFTA, but it is not yet clear when those discussions might officially begin.

As part of its own preparations, the Trudeau cabinet recently met with former prime minister Brian Mulroney, whose government negotiated NAFTA in the early 1990s.

The possibility of a border adjustment tax is also likely tied up in the Trump administration's hopes for larger tax reform.

And Trump is also expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday that relates to "buy American" and "hire American" policies, potentially adding to the list of cross-border concerns for the Trudeau government.

"One of the things that we're trying to explain is what are the ramifications of making trade more difficult between our two countries," Bill Morneau told CBC Radio's The House earlier this month

"And I found a very receptive audience in that message and in particular that message that that tax has the very real potential impact of raising costs for American consumers and raising prices — retail price. Surely that's going to be negative for Americans."


Aaron Wherry

Senior writer

Aaron Wherry has covered Parliament Hill since 2007 and has written for Maclean's, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. He is the author of Promise & Peril, a book about Justin Trudeau's years in power.


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