New Tory Rival Urges Trudeau to Stop Seeking China Trade Deal

  • Scheer says Canada should instead secure post-Brexit U.K. pact
  • Conservative leader criticizes PM’s handling of U.S. relations

Canada's Scheer Says Ottawa Needs to Be More Proactive

Justin Trudeau should ditch hopes for a trade deal with China and pursue a post-Brexit pact with the U.K. instead, according to the Canadian prime minister’s chief rival.

Newly elected Conservative leader Andrew Scheer opposes a free-trade deal with China, saying the country’s labor and environmental standards are too different from Canada’s to be reconciled.

Andrew Scheer

Andrew Scheer

Photographer: Adrian Wyld/AP Photo

“They don’t have the same economic fundamentals as we do,” he said Monday in an interview on Bloomberg TV Canada, adding the U.K. tops the list of countries that are better options. “That would be low-hanging fruit.”

The 38-year-old was elected in May largely as a stay-the-course candidate for the right-leaning Conservatives, who hold the second-most seats in parliament and who governed from 2006 to 2015 under Stephen Harper.

Scheer criticized the Liberals for failing to move quickly enough to shore up U.S. trade -- in particular, to secure a deal on softwood lumber, a long-simmering dispute that remains a thorn in Canada-U.S. ties. He called on Trudeau to enlist U.S. companies that sell heavily to Canada to lobby American lawmakers on the country’s behalf. “That I think they’ll understand more than just getting Adam Smith read to them by Canadian diplomats,” Scheer said.

Trudeau, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Ambassador to Washington David MacNaughton have rolled out a full-court press to lobby American lawmakers since the election of Donald Trump. The government has also said it’s focused on nailing down Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union, set to provisionally kick in by September and include the U.K., before looking for a way to keep the U.K. in the pact.

Trump, Infrastructure and Taxes

Conservative lawmakers have steered clear of embracing the U.S. president, and Scheer demurred when asked what he thinks about Trump. “Obviously, I’ll leave it to American voters to make an assessment on that. I have my own style, my own vision for how to articulate the policies I believe in,” he said.

Canada’s next federal election is scheduled in 2019. If he becomes prime minister, Scheer signaled policy changes to come. He’d back off Trudeau’s proposed Canadian Infrastructure Bank, calling it “a massive boondoggle waiting to happen” and move to “traditional” public-private partnership model “that places risk and reward together.” He said Canada’s federal corporate tax rate of 15 percent is “a good place for it to be” but added he’s always looking for ways to lower taxes.

Scheer frequently critiques Trudeau for the scale of federal budget deficits. He signaled he’d cut foreign aid and development spending in a bid to reduce red ink. “There’s a lot of new spending the Liberals have announced that isn’t even being spent in Canada, it’s being spent around the world,” he said when pressed on what he’d cut.

He cited Harper’s record in maintaining transfer payments and social program spending while corralling spending and said he’d seek to do the same thing. “That’s the recipe that I’ll follow,” he said.

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