By MPP Toby Barrett

On May 18 last year U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gave notice of intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Citing outdated standards and regulation, Lighthizer stressed the need for higher-paying jobs in the U.S. And President Trump, we know, had repeatedly stated he would tear up NAFTA. While such a move would require the sign-off of the U.S. Congress, the President can unilaterally sign Executive Orders regarding tariffs.

In the spring of last year, the federal government and many of the provinces scrambled to put together a lobbying effort to persuade U.S. states and the Trump administration to leave Canada out of these protectionist measures.

Factories and farming in both our countries are linked, with just-in-time delivery chains that crisscross the border. Investment, productivity and competitiveness in both countries are largely supported by common rules and harmonized regulation – not by suffocating regulation and not by mutual retaliatory measures.

Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall offered up his explanation of cross-border supply chains. “Saskatchewan farmers buy John Deere tractors, made in Iowa, to harvest oats that are then sold to General Mills in Cedar Rapids, turned into Cheerios and exported back to Canada.”

The United States and Canada boast one of the largest trading relationships in the world.

No other country buys more goods and services that are “Made in the USA” than Canada – to the tune of $322 billion a year. As a result, Canada supports close to nine million U.S. jobs.

Ontario is the number one trading partner for 19 states, and number two for eight others. It is absolutely critical for both Ontario and our friends south of the border that the new US-Mexico-Canada arrangement helps us build on that success.

These are some of the things I have been hearing at five conferences I’ve attended south of the border since the change in the U.S. administration. At the state and provincial level, elected representatives agree the numbers speak for themselves – trade has resulted in prosperity and good-paying jobs.

However, Canada and the U.S. have also lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and China, largely due to cheaper labour.

The NAFTA negotiations commenced Aug. 16 of 2017. The uncertainty was huge. We really didn’t know where things were going to go.

We want to make Ontario open for business. That’s why, from day one, we have offered our full support to our federal partner throughout, to what is now referred to as, the US-Mexico-Canada  (USMCA) negotiation process to make sure a deal got done.

We are cautiously optimistic that the USMCA announced this past Oct. 1 will create continued opportunities.

Our government has been speaking directly with industry representatives from Ontario’s steel, aluminum, auto and agriculture sectors to determine the impacts of this deal. During the negotiations, we made it clear that any deal must keep Ontario’s steel, aluminum, auto and agriculture industries top of mind.

I will continue to do my best to fight on behalf of farmers, autoworkers, and steelworkers.

We will continue to vigorously defend and advance Ontario’s economic interests. We will make sure that we protect our economy, our jobs, and the people of Ontario.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk