by Chris White
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environmental agenda could seriously damage Canada’s ability to hammer out a recently revamped trade pact with the U.S. and Mexico.
Trudeau maintained last year that any negotiation on the North American Free Trade Agreement should include promises to reduce gas emissions. But that pledge likely took a hit Monday after President Donald Trump forged a deal with Mexico that does not mention global warming.
Trump has Trudeau over a barrel. American exports to Canada increased 165 percent since NAFTA became official in 1993; likewise, imports from Canada rose 150 percent, according to according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. If Trump smacks a 25 percent tariff on automobiles it would clobber Canada’s economic engine, Ontario.
Activists want Trudeau to keep a hardline and demand the new deal mention climate change mitigation. “It violates the norm that the environment belongs at the negotiating table,” Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told The New York Times Wednesday.
“The big question will be to what extent Canada will be interested in going to the wall on climate,” Dale Marshall, national climate program manager for Environmental Defense, a Canadian nonprofit group, told reporters. “When the rubber hits the road and we’re talking about economic trade, does Canada feel strong enough about those issues to be willing to scuttle a deal? I’m not sure.”
Activists might have a legitimate concern. Trudeau did an about-face in May when his government nationalized the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, a project designed to transport Alberta crude oil from Edmonton to Vancouver for shipment to overseas markets.
The Alberta government supported the move, but American Indian groups and environmentalists panned the move. The Trudeau government has the ultimate say on whether the project continues, but the move appeared to run counter to the prime minister’s promise to support the Paris agreement.
Trudeau, for his part, is teasing the possibility of Canada re-entering the new pact. “We recognize that there is a possibility of getting there by Friday, but it is only a possibility, because it will hinge on whether or not there is ultimately a good deal for Canada,” he said Wednesday at a press conference in northern Ontario. “No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal.”
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