The House

Midweek podcast: U.S. labour unions push Trump not to leave Canada 'on the sidelines'

This week on The House midweek podcast, Celeste Drake of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations talks about the push to keep Canada at the NAFTA negotiating table. We also ask the CBC's Katie Simpson for the latest details from the talks in Washington.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left, shakes hands with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, accompanied by Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal. Top officials continued negotiations in Washington this week. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)
Listen to the full episode28:10

A trade deal without Canada isn't the deal U.S. labour unions are looking for as the two countries meet for another round of high-level NAFTA negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted repeatedly he doesn't need Canada on board for a trade deal and has threatened to proceed with a bilateral agreement with Mexico without Canada's involvement. 

Celeste Drake, a trade policy expert at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, told CBC's The House that labour unions are pushing the Trump administration "not to leave Canada sitting on the sidelines."

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland returned to Washington on Wednesday to resume NAFTA talks that were put on pause over the holiday weekend.

Asked repeatedly by reporters about the progress being made, she maintained Canada will not negotiate in public.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in this week on the country's "red lines" in the NAFTA talks, maintaining his government won't bend on the need to maintain a NAFTA dispute resolution mechanism and rules to protect Canadian cultural content.

"It is inconceivable to Canadians that an American network might buy Canadian media affiliates, whether it's newspapers or TV stations or TV networks. It would be a giving up of our sovereignty and our identity and that is something that we will simply not accept," Trudeau told reporters in Vancouver Tuesday.

In Edmonton a day later, Trudeau pointed to Trump himself to make his argument for maintaining the dispute resolution chapter.

"We have a president who doesn't always follow the rules as they're laid out," Trudeau said.

NAFTA negotiations are set to resume, amid more explosive allegations involving Donald Trump. CBC News looks at three things to watch for as negotiators head back to the table 3:20

Drake said the Trump administration has thoughtfully considered her organization's submissions on NAFTA and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is more open to conversation than his Obama-era predecessor.

"There's a real dialogue and a give-and-take," she said, while acknowledging that "consultations are not the same as results."

No matter what comes of the NAFTA negotiations, Drake said players on both ends of the political spectrum will be disappointed.

She progressive trade policies will always be viewed by free trade supporters as protectionist, while protectionists will always view any free trade deal as excessive.

There have been hiccups in the year-long negotiations, but Drake told host Chris Hall it's time for a new NAFTA.

"It's getting a lot more attention than trade typically gets," she said.

Drake said she fears the positive aspects of a new NAFTA could get lost in President Trump's rhetoric. Her advice for citizens in all three countries is to keep cool and maintain perspective — and to avoid rejecting the message just because you hate the messenger.

This week on The House midweek podcast, Celeste Drake of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations talks about the push to keep Canada at the NAFTA negotiating table. We also ask the CBC's Katie Simpson for the latest details from talks in Washington. 28:10

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.