One of Donald Trump’s most trusted cabinet members says provincial elections in Canada are part of the reason NAFTA talks must move at “record-breaking” speed.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made the comments to the Washington Post during a live question and answer session today, covering a range of financial issues.
But trade experts are questioning Ross’s claim, since the federal government handles trade issues and only three provinces have elections scheduled for 2018.
Ross said NAFTA talks “can’t drag on too long because of the political calendar.”
“You have the Mexican presidential elections in mid-summer next year, you have Canadian provincial elections around the same time….and then obviously in November next year we have the mid-term (U.S.) elections.”
“As you get closer to all of those political dates, the ability to get anything done will go down,” Ross added.
Lack of understanding: Ritchie
“It’s a comment that displays a surprising lack of understanding of the Canadian political context,” said Gordon Ritchie a member of the original Canadian NAFTA negotiating team.
“First of all, the file is a federal responsibility. Second, the provinces are all on the same page,” Ritchie said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reached out to his provincial counterparts for a series of phone calls to discuss NAFTA. Premiers representing different political parties have cooperated on the issue, and most have also engaged their U.S. counterparts to encourage continued trade with Canada.
“I don’t see any impact of any provincial election on any of this stuff,” Ritchie added.
“Canadian provincial elections should not have much of an effect on Canada’s ability to conclude the negotiations,” agreed Laura Dawson, the director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.
“Provinces have, by and large, been supportive of trade agreements as long as their concerns are taken seriously by Ottawa,” Wilson said.
Even if the provinces had a larger say over trade issues, only three have elections planned for 2018: Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.
While Ross is an influential member of the Trump cabinet, and…