Canada Should "Keep Its Head Down," Advises NAFTA Negotiator


Donald Trump doesn’t think highly of the document John Weekes spent several years of his life helping craft in the ’90s.

“My wife teases me about it. ‘You hear that? The worst deal ever!'” jokes Weekes, in our conversation below.

Having served as Canada’s chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement, he has a unique perspective on the current dialogue surrounding NAFTA and Trump.

For the time being, the Canadian government should wait quietly to see which the direction Trump and his team take on the NAFTA file, suggests Weekes, who is now a senior business advisor with Bennett Jones.

“Right now we should be keeping our heads down. It seems we’re not actually in Donald Trump’s gunsights. He’s not talking about problems with Canada, so we don’t want to suggest we’re eager to get into a negotiation, because I think it would be very difficult,” he notes. “It’s not something we’d propose.”

While laying low, the Canadian government should place a high internal priority on preparing for renegotiations, including “assembling a group of top rate people” and deciding on responses to a list of probable requests from the Trump administration, he says.

That list would likely have Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry products on it, says Weekes:

“I think if they wanted to renegotiate NAFTA, that one of the things they would very clearly focus on is our supply management system. That might indeed be their number one priority.”

Since all three NAFTA countries were involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, the Pacific trade deal could serve as a template for Canada’s positions.

“Anything in the TPP has the advantage of having already been negotiated by the three North American countries,” he points out. “The homework has been done.”

Check out the conversation above for more insight from Weekes into how Ottawa should handle the possibility of NAFTA renegotiation, whether it’s possible agriculture would be left alone if it’s opened up, and more (originally heard on RealAg Radio on SiriusXM.)


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