WatchTrudeau still thinks NAFTA can be saved despite Trumps repeated threats to

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau remains optimistic that Canada, the United States and Mexico can strike a deal to modernize NAFTA that benefits all three countries.In an interview this week with The Canadian Press, the prime minister said he still believes there’s a good chance negotiations will result in what he calls a “win-win-win” — notwithstanding contradictory signals from the U.S. that have frequently left the impression that the North American Free Trade Agreement is doomed.U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened repeatedly to pull out of the continental trade pact.But Trudeau effectively dismissed such threats as a negotiating tactic.‘Shooting themselves in the foot’: How NAFTA’s collapse could disrupt U.S.-Canada energy tradeThe real problem with NAFTA is Canada, not Mexico, Paul Ryan saysA seven-step guide to what does, doesn’t happen if Trump starts NAFTA pullout“Our approach has been braced for a certain level of negotiations and back and forth but our approach is consistent, that we know that there is a good deal to be had that will benefit Canada and the United States and Mexico and we’re going to stay focused on reaching that in ways that benefit us all,” he said.“My assessment that there is a path forward is (based on the fact) that I truly believe, I truly know that NAFTA has been good for jobs in the United States, it’s been good for jobs in Canada, it’s been good for the Mexican economy.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is still optimistic a deal can be reached on NAFTA, though contradictory signals from the U.S. have left the impression that the deal is doomed. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press Trudeau suggested there’s little be gained trying to trying to figure out where Trump, or the negotiations, are headed.“We don’t worry too much about what sort of the news or the narrative of any given day is, because this is a negotiation that is going to take significant amounts of time and go through different phases.”The talks appeared to stall before Christmas as both Canada and Mexico flatly rejected a number of unpalatable U.S. demands, including American calls to scrap the independent dispute settlement process, end Canada’s system of supply management for dairy and poultry, hike American and North American content requirements for automobiles and add a sunset clause that would automatically terminate the agreement after five years unless all three member countries agree to extend it.Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada would be bringing some “creative” new proposals to the sixth round of negotiations next week in Montreal, in response to the “more unconventional” American demands.That prompted some speculation that Canada is about to cave in to the U.S. But Trudeau said that’s not the case.“We have been holding firm on Canada’s interests,” he insisted.“We’ve been very clear to Canadians that we’re not going to accept any old deal. We’re going to accept a deal that is good for Canadians. And we have been unequivocal on that. We’re, of course, always open to discussions on finding that middle ground but at the end of the day we will be only signing a deal that’s in Canada’s interests.Government insiders and stakeholders have suggested that Canada is prepared to agree to a periodic review of NAFTA, but not one that could result in the pact’s automatic termination.We (are) going to accept a deal that is good for CanadiansTrudeau They’ve also suggested Canada will propose adding the computer software that is increasingly ubiquitous in vehicles to the list of auto parts whose country of origin must be traced. That would substantially raise the North American content of cars.At the same time that Freeland was talking about new NAFTA proposals, the government revealed last week that it has launched a broad-based challenge at the World Trade Organization to the United States’ use of punitive sanctions.Trudeau pointed to that as proof that his government doesn’t intend to cave in on NAFTA.While it won’t respond to “threats or intentions made as a part of negotiation,” he said his government will stand up for Canadian interests when there are “concrete actions that we can take a formal response to,” such as the punitive duties the U.S. has imposed on Canadian softwood lumber and Bombardier which prompted the WTO litigation.“And we do it without malice or anger,” Trudeau added. “But I have been very clear with the president from Day 1 that my job is to stand up for and defend Canadian interests and he understands that.”If the prospects for NAFTA’s survival seem somewhat brighter, Trudeau gave credit to the full-court press Canada has undertaken in the U.S. to persuade political leaders and stakeholders of the benefits of NAFTA and encourage them to speak up in support of the pact.“We’ve continued to see governors, business leaders, members of Congress speaking up about the positive impacts of NAFTA on their districts, on their states, on their industries,” he said.“We set out to highlight the benefits of a relationship that many Americans have taken for granted. And I think we’ve done a good job as we’ve heard people speaking up on the benefits of NAFTA.”Trudeau has been criticized in some quarters for not denouncing Trump’s erratic behaviour and controversial comments. But he said Canadians know this country must maintain good relations with the U.S., regardless of who is president.In any event, Trudeau said he’s never shied away from reiterating his own values and no one, including Trump himself, doubts that his views on things like minority rights, feminism and immigration are very different than those of the president. “And there are ways, there is a way to move forward that will end up beneficial, more beneficial than any other path — bilaterals or termination or whatever. So I do believe there are good chances that we’re going to end up in a win-win-win for everyone.”Last week, a report that the Canadian government was increasingly expecting Trump to terminate NAFTA caused the loonie and jittery markets to fall.The president subsequently calmed fears about NAFTA’s potential demise, telling the Wall Street Journal that he’d “rather keep it” and telling American farmers, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the pact, that he’s working hard to improve it.I do believe there are good chances that we (are) going to end up in a win-win-win for everyone.Trudeau read more

Deal on Canada Pension Plan reform was swift in policymaking terms

Deal on Canada Pension Plan reform was swift in policy-making terms Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau is flanked by his provincial and territorial counterparts as he speaks during a news conference after reaching a deal to expand the Canada Pension Plan, in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday June 20, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck by Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press Posted Jun 21, 2016 2:00 am MDT Last Updated Jun 22, 2016 at 7:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email OTTAWA – Higher Canada Pension Plan premiums are still more than two years off, and the ensuing benefits — meant to accrue to future generations — still several decades away.All of which makes it rather ironic that the “historic” CPP deal reached Monday between Ottawa and most, but not all, of the provinces and territories came together in a relative blink of an eye — by policy-making standards, at least.Even federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, himself a pension expert, had expected it to take until the end of the year for negotiations to wrap up.Instead, the provinces are now being asked to finalize an agreement by July 15 that will eventually increase contributions and retirement benefits through the public plan.Following weeks of talks and an all-day meeting in Vancouver on Monday, finance ministers emerged with an agreement in principle.Even provinces such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, which had expressed concerns about the timing of CPP reform, had signed on. Only Manitoba and Quebec declined to agree to the terms.The agreement came together as pollsters pointed to overwhelming popular support for public pension reform amid concerns about the adequacy of retirement savings.The federal Liberals ran on platform to upgrade the public pension system, as did their Ontario cousins. The result also means Ontario will abandon its project to go it alone with its own pension plan.How did this all happen so quickly?Sources familiar with the talks said doubters had concerns about the potential economic impact of boosting the CPP, even at the late stages of negotiations.They said Ottawa made a major push in the final days and hours, which helped secure enough country-wide support to expand the CPP. To make the change, they needed the consent of a minimum of seven provinces representing at least two-thirds of Canada’s population.The sources also said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself was personally involved in the 11th-hour effort. Ontario was also a central player in the lobbying drive.Canada’s most populous province has long pushed for an enhanced CPP, going so far as to propose its own, more ambitious pension plan. Indeed, Ontario repeatedly warned it would go it alone on pension reform, if necessary.On Tuesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne gave her government credit for its role in the CPP deal.“Had we not continued to work to implement the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan, had we not continued to put this issue on the table squarely with our colleagues across the country, I firmly believe that we would not be here today,” she said.“Ontario’s determination has paid off.”To get there, Ontario eased concerns of some provinces by backing down from its earlier requests that CPP reform be just as robust as its own proposal and that it be gradually introduced starting in 2018.The agreement states the CPP premium increases on workers and employees will only start to be phased in on Jan. 1, 2019.Saskatchewan’s finance minister said his province signed on out of fear that the alternative would be something worse.“I think we played a constructive role knowing full well that, had we not gone along with it, something would have been imposed upon us that maybe was less palatable,” said Finance Minister Kevin Doherty, who less than a week ago had opposed any changes because it could further damage the struggling provincial economy.The CPP deal, however, wasn’t signed by everyone.Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the CPP agreement does not address the need for people to manage their own retirement savings.“I guess what I’m talking about is making sure we don’t lose sight of individual responsibility in the hoopla around debating the CPP augmentation here,” said Pallister, who worked for decades in insurance and financial planning.He also said Manitoba abstained from the vote in part because his government was only two months old. The province is, however, still studying the issue.Quebec refused to sign the deal out of concern a broad-based premium increase would have a negative impact of low-income earners. The province operates its own sister program of the CPP — the Quebec Pension Plan. Quebec can adjust the QPP as it likes, but it has typically followed the CPP.Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said in an interview he will raise QPP premiums according to the CPP deal. He said he would also phase them in over the same period.But unlike the broader-based CPP reform agreement, he said Quebec would only raise premiums on income earned above $27,500.“Those people already have a hard time saving, so their disposable income is pretty tight — and I think by taking the decision that we took, we will avoid an unfair tax on them and also on their employers.”To help offset the effect on low-income earners of increased CPP premiums, Ottawa said would it enhance the federal working income tax benefit — but it did not immediately indicate by how much.It also said it would provide a tax deduction — instead of a tax credit — on the increased CPP contributions by employees.Critics of CPP expansion warn that imposing additional contributions will squeeze workers and employers — and hurt the economy.Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, warned that the CPP expansion is “pretty devastating” for small businesses.“The big question I ask myself is what was the size of the federal cheques that were written to some of these provinces to get them to the table?”— Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter read more