Mid-August isn’t normally a busy time of the year. People have taken off on vacation or to long weekends at the cottage. Streets and offices are quieter than usual. Things slow down.
That isn’t the case this year, at least not for Canada’s business community — we will be carefully watching history unfold this week as talks begin to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
We know it will take months, maybe even years, for NAFTA to be redrawn. We know that despite the strength of our negotiators and all that Canada brings to the table, the unpredictable can happen — the political surprises of this past year have shown us that much. But we also know that we have arrived at this significant period having done our part on behalf of Canadian businesses.
For months, we have been working hard at the Chamber to strengthen our US relationships and highlight the real economic gains of the world’s most successful trade agreement. It started with targeted visits to key states such as South Carolina and Tennessee, where we met with local government and business officials to underscore the mutual rewards of trade between our regions. We are busy preparing for our next trade mission to Texas in September and Georgia in October.
This summer we submitted recommendations to Canada’s negotiating team on specific ratifications to NAFTA that would benefit Canadian businesses of all sizes and sectors. We also made submissions to the Mexican government on how we can increase our bilateral engagement and improve our long-standing trade agreement.
While we head into this week with apprehension, we are optimistic that these talks also present an opportunity to update a 25-year-old deal to better reflect the realities of doing business in a new economic environment.
The process will be long. At times it will be tough. But if we can at once preserve and modernize our vital trade agreement, businesses in each country of the continent will come out on top of this.