U.S.-Canadian Relationship Is Tested By NAFTA Politics
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The U.S. and Canada are usually in lockstep, but that relationship is being tested right now. Trade between the countries is uncertain. President Trump wants to change the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He's repeatedly called NAFTA the worst trade deal ever signed, and that's put negotiations over the agreement on edge. Our own Lulu Garcia-Navarro is reporting from Canada this week. She's been getting the view from our northern border, and she joins us from British Columbia. Hey, Lulu.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Hi.
BLOCK: And what have you been hearing as you're up there? What - how are Canadians viewing the relationship with the U.S. right now?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I am actually standing on a pretty busy road. It leads into the United States, so there's a lot of trucks rumbling past. Vancouver, the main city in British Columbia, and British Columbia generally is, of course, a border region. And I've spent a lot of time talking to Canadians, and I've spent a lot of time in Canada over the years. And I have to say I've been pretty surprised about some of the reactions to what is happening in the United States right now. I was talking to two Canadians, for example, last night at a comedy club. They were on their honeymoon in Vancouver. They were there to see an American comic, and they said, you know, all they see on television here is our President Trump. Others have expressed their concerns about, you know, America's stability. They're saying that it seems that the U.S. is so divided right now, and it is a cause for concern.
BLOCK: Well, this past week the latest round of negotiations over NAFTA wrapped up. They will be continued, but headlines right now are using words like collapse and demise. What are Canadians saying about that?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, these talks are getting a lot of attention here because much is at stake for Canadian industry. Almost 80 percent of all exports in Canada go in one direction. And that is south to the United States. So I'm going to bring in an expert, Peter Armstrong. He is the host of the CBC show "On The Money."
Peter, good morning.
PETER ARMSTRONG: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Explain to us what Canada is concerned about with these talks.
ARMSTRONG: Well, I mean, I think everybody here would tell you that NAFTA's actually worked out really well. I spoke to the head of a labor union that fought NAFTA tooth and nail back when it was being negotiated who's now saying, listen, we really need to defend its central tenants, that it's been good for trade, that - we're talking about a trillion dollars in trilateral trade between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. And it's not just that trade and that back and forth across these open borders, you know, 600-some million dollars between Canada and the U.S. alone.
When you're talking about something that's that deeply entwined and that deeply integrated and making major changes to it - and, you know, if you take both Robert Lighthizer, the trade representative, and U.S. President Donald Trump at their word, they want to tear it up. Well, then it - that gets really scary. I mean, you know, a fifth of jobs in Canada are linked to trade. You know, there are - our oil business is tied directly to the United States. This is a huge deal for us. And, you know, the old - the old line about Canada and the U.S. is that it's like sleeping with an elephant. It's all well and good. But if the elephant rolls over, you've got to be really careful.
BLOCK: (Laughter) Well, Peter, if Canadians think this deal is great for Canada, do they see any sign that that argument will get anywhere with President Trump, who thinks it's a bad deal for the United States?
ARMSTRONG: Well, the main problem we come up against is that we're not arguing the same facts. And, you know, I don't want to get in the weeds on a trade deficit or trade surplus, but the U.S. says there's a trade deficit with Canada when even the trade representative's office numbers show that the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada and has left a lot of people here scratching their heads wondering, well, how do you negotiate against that? It's a little bit like arguing against smoke. It just pushes out of the way when you push at it. And they're really struggling with that.
BLOCK: OK. Peter Armstrong from the CBC, thanks for joining us.
ARMSTRONG: You bet.
BLOCK: And Lulu, what else are you looking at up there?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, I've also been taking a look at Canada's immigration system. You know, as the Trump administration pushes a harder line on immigration, Canada has been marketing itself as a more welcoming place, but that has, Melissa, had some unintended consequences. I've also been reporting on a huge oil pipeline that Canada is developing that could have some real impacts environmental and economic here and in the United States.
BLOCK: OK. Looking forward to hearing your stories next Sunday on WEEKEND EDITION. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro on the road in Canada. Lulu, thanks.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE COCKBURN SONG, "DIFFERENT WHEN IT COMES TO YOU")
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