Photographer: Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA

Canada Isn’t Immune to Global Protectionist Trend, Senators Warn

Canada is at risk of stoking populist trade protectionism evident in other developed nations unless the government does a better job highlighting the benefits of agreements such as Nafta, a Senate committee found.

A disruption in trade would be problematic because it’s tied to 60 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and about one in five jobs, the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee said in a report Tuesday from Ottawa. The panel heard from 53 witnesses and found a lack of consultation before deals are signed or evaluation afterwards threatens support for such agreements.

“If it’s only advancing corporate Canada, we have elections here every few years and the public at some point will rise up and say we want to go in a different direction,” Percy Downe, the committee’s deputy chair, told reporters.

“Everybody understands we are a trading nation,” Downe said. “What they don’t understand is the impact of certain deals: why factories down the road suddenly disappear and we see Mexico with low wages or low benefits in many cases doing jobs that used to be done in Canada. Where is the balance in that?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s open to U.S. President Donald Trump’s calls to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump won election partly by attacking what he called unfair trade practices by Mexico, while Trudeau has sought to expand global trade with the European Union and China.

“Canada isn’t immune to the rise of protectionist sentiments,” the committee’s report concluded.

Much of the work was done before Trump took office and the committee chair Raynell Andreychuk said Canada’s negotiators would be smart to develop better ways of building public consultations now before any fresh talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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