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Consul General of Canada discusses NAFTA negotiations with local business leaders


Michigan exports several billion dollars in automotive and agriculture goods to Canada and Mexico each year. With the United States renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with its neighbors, non-profit regional development organization, The Right Place, along with the Van Andel Global Trade Center invited area business leaders to meet privately with the Canadian Consul General for an update on negotiations.

“Generally, all three countries have benefited significantly from NAFTA and there would be serious repercussions if NAFTA ever disappeared, serious damage to the economy of all three countries.”

Canadian Consul General Douglas George is participating in the NAFTA’s renegotiation entering a seventh round of talks. President Donald Trump has made the assertion NAFTA is unfair. If that’s the case, I asked Mr. George, from his perspective, what are the disparities?

“The President has often said that the U.S. is running a trade deficit with Canada. Using American statistics for 2016, which is the last full year with full data, the U.S. is actually running a small surplus with Canada when you look at trade in goods and services. If you look at trade in manufactured goods the U.S. is running a very large surplus with Canada. The disparities I don’t think NAFTA is unfair. I think it’s dated. Its 24 years old and it needs to be brought up-to-date. When we negotiated NAFTA, and I’ve used this line before, Amazon was a big river somewhere in South America. Now if you say Amazon you think of a company and its global reach. But there’s nothing on the digital economy in the current NAFTA. It’s a chapter we’re negotiating and it’s one we’ve made a great deal of progress on and it’s probably close to closing. But that’s just one of many examples of how NAFTA needs to be brought up to date. It needs to be modernized. It really is, when we negotiated it, it was the most modern forward looking agreement at the time but it’s now out-of-date and we need to change it. We need to bring it up to speed. I think what we need to do is to set ourselves up not to deal with problems that may have been created 24 years ago but to set ourselves up for where we’re going to be in the next 25 years. Where do you want your kids and grandkids working? Do you want to do things that will bring the auto industry, keep it in North America, and allow it to be the leader that it always has been, or are you going to put in place policies that might chase some jobs to China or elsewhere in the world? I don’t think it’s unfair. I think it’s been fair to all three of us.”

NAFTA is the largest trading bloc in the world. As Mr. George explains it the three countries make up seven percent of the world’s population commanding 25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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