(Ottawa) The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on Ottawa to launch a charm offensive to defend Canada’s business interests in the United States before the November presidential election.
The organization, which represents businesses of various sizes from across the country, believes the time has come for federal, provincial and municipal governments to launch a coordinated awareness campaign to protect cross-border trade between the two countries.
This campaign, which would also involve private companies, would aim to convince Americans that Canada represents an exceptional partner for the American economy, before the planned statutory review of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). in 2026.
“Washington has increasingly come to view its bilateral relations not as strategic, but as transactional,” reads the Chamber of Commerce letter dated December 29. “It would be a terrible mistake to believe that we can wait until 2025 to ensure that CUSMA is preserved. »
When former President Donald Trump, elected in 2016, threatened to tear up the previous free trade agreement that had governed US trade with Canada and Mexico since 1994 (NAFTA), Ottawa launched a large-scale effort to convince Americans that free trade was beneficial to them.
Months of intense negotiations finally resulted in a new agreement in 2018. CUSMA, which came into force two years later, includes a “review and rollover” provision that establishes a 16-year life cycle and requires signatory countries to sit down every six years – in 2026 – to ensuring that all three partners are always satisfied.
If there is no consensus in 2026, a sort of “self-destruct mechanism” will activate and CUSMA could expire 10 years later.
Adam Taylor, international trade consultant with NorthStar Public Affairs, says provinces and Canadian businesses could partner with Ottawa in a joint approach. But he believes it would be better to develop an emergency plan discreetly.
“We should be aware of that. I think if we launch too much of a charm offensive too soon, it could backfire: bringing these issues to the forefront would bring them into the political dynamic south of the border. »
Mr. Taylor, who has advised Canada’s Conservative governments on trade issues, believes it is likely that different levels of government in Canada, of varying political colors, will put in place a “common approach” to protect the national economy if Washington began considering major changes to CUSMA.
But he says the federal Liberals must first do a better job of highlighting the deep ties between the two countries in areas like military and intelligence, to guard against the possibility that Americans will see the Canada like any other trading partner.
The Biden administration ultimately changed some of these measures after Canada warned Washington about damaging trade flows between the two neighbors. But Mr. Taylor still believes that the two presidents have led Canadian businesses to think about the possibility that CUSMA could eventually be modified, or even eliminated altogether.
In its letter, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce also calls on Ottawa to develop better export infrastructure, such as deep-water ports and terminals for liquefied natural gas, so that Canada can quickly change the way it does business. export its resources and products according to global demand and geopolitical changes.
The Chamber also wants Ottawa to increase its military spending to increase Canada’s chances of joining strategic partnerships in regions like the Indo-Pacific.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to the House’s letter.