With the two week countdown on ahead of NAFTA negotiations, the Canadian government is bolstering its team in Washington and establishing a council to provide advice to Canadian negotiators.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Wednesday that she’s sending Canada’s chief negotiator in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to Washington as a deputy ambassador.
Kirsten Hillman, who led the Canadian team during the TPP talks and was overseeing exploratory trade talks with China and the ratification of the Canada-EU trade deal, will be stationed in Washington. (Like Minister Freeland, whose father farms near Peace River, Alberta, Hillman has some ties to agriculture, with family farming near Deloraine, Manitoba, which she discussed here.)
She will work with Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, a veteran in trade talks, having led Canadian trade teams in the Canada-EU deal and in World Trade Organization negotiations.
Freeland also announced the creation of a 13-member NAFTA advisory council to provide opinions and feedback to her leading up to and during the negotiations.
The members include Marcel Groleau, president of Quebec’s general farm group, Union des producteurs agricoles.
Showing a non-partisan approach, also named to the NAFTA council: former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, her former Conservative cabinet colleague James Moore, and Brian Topp, NDP strategist and former chief of staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. (Read the whole list here.)
Round one of NAFTA negotiations will begin in Washington on August 16. Round two is slated for Mexico starting around September 10.