Trump doesn’t always follow rules, so Canada needs NAFTA’s Chapter 19: Trudeau

At Trump’s behest, the three NAFTA countries have been negotiating for more than a year

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau branded Donald Trump a rule breaker in arguing Wednesday for Canada’s fight to preserve the dispute settlement chapter that the U.S. president wants shredded from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trudeau offered some of his sharpest criticism of the unpredictable American president during a telephone interview with an Edmonton radio station, just as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland resumed NAFTA talks in Washington with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer.

While Freeland said she agreed with Trudeau’s assessment of Trump, she went out of her way to praise Lighthizer’s “good faith” and “good will,” clearly assuming the role of the good cop as the NAFTA talks enter a critical phase just a block from Trump’s White House.

Trudeau, meanwhile, slid into the so-called bad cop role, telling Edmonton radio station CHED that Canada won’t give an inch to Trump’s desire to scrap NAFTA’s Chapter 19 dispute resolution panels. The chapter allows companies to have their differences settled by independent arbiters — something Trump views as an infringement of U.S. sovereignty.

“We need to keep the Chapter 19 dispute resolution because that ensures that the rules are actually followed. And we know we have a president who doesn’t always follow the rules as they’re laid out,” Trudeau said.

As she emerged in the sweltering Washington humidity after two hours of talks with Lighthizer, Freeland said she wanted to stick to her agreement with Lighthizer to not negotiate in public. But she added: “I agree with the prime minister in public all of the time, and in private 99.99 per cent of the time … he made some important comments.”

At Trump’s behest, the three NAFTA countries have been negotiating for more than a year to revamp the trilateral agreement that has been integral to the continent’s economy for more than two decades. The U.S. and Mexico reached a side deal last month, leaving Canada to negotiate separately with the U.S.

In the radio interview in Edmonton, Trudeau reiterated his full-throated defence of Canada’s cultural exemption in NAFTA.

READ MORE: Despite Trump deadline, NAFTA talks to resume next week

Sources familiar with the Canadian bargaining position say the cultural exemption Canada has insisted on preserving since NAFTA talks reopened remains an 11th-hour sticking point.

“The idea of preserving it remains an unresolved issue between the two,” said one source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivities surrounding the issue.

Part of the disagreement on culture revolves around Canada’s decision to allow the broadcast of glitzy American Super Bowl commercials.

The decision by Canada’s broadcast regulator to allow the sometimes iconic American advertisements to appear on Canadian television has raised the ire of Lighthizer during the long renegotiation of NAFTA.

“The United States is very concerned about this policy,” Lighthizer wrote earlier this year in his annual report on barriers to U.S. trade.

On a section on Canadian content in broadcasting, Lighthizer highlighted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision in 2015 that banned the long-time practice of Canadian advertisers inserting their ads into the Super Bowl broadcast over the more popular American ones.

The new rules went into effect in time for the Super Bowl in February 2017.

The NFL and Bell Media, which holds the Canadian rights to the game, filed separately asked the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn the decision. In December 2017, the court dismissed the appeals.

Lighthizer’s report said American networks had concerns about the CRTC policy: “U.S. suppliers of programming believe that the price Canadian networks pay for Super Bowl rights is determined by the value of advertising they can sell in Canada, and that the CRTC’s decision reduces the value of their programming.”

Lighthizer also said American broadcasters operating in border states have also complained about Canadian counterparts picking up the U.S. signals and redistributing in Canada without consent. “The United States is exploring avenues to address these concerns,” Lighthizer wrote.

Canada and the U.S. need to present an agreed-upon text to the U.S. Congress by Oct. 1 in order to join the deal the Trump administration signed with Mexico. Trump is threatening to move ahead on a deal with Mexico that excludes Canada.

Trump needs a win on trade ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November that will test the president’s ability to keep control of Congress.

But Trudeau suggested Wednesday that he’s in no rush to anybody any favours.

“We’re not going to accept that we should have to sign a bad deal just because the president wants that,” the prime minister said.

The overall goal of this week’s talks is to reach a deal by Dec. 1 so Congress can give its approval to a revised three-country NAFTA before Mexico’s new president takes office.

Freeland and Lighthizer continued their face-to-face talks Wednesday afternoon.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

In health care, it does take a team

Julie Lowes is the manager at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: A sunny Easter Sunday

Temperatures will peak at approximately 20C region-wide

Revelstoke ladies make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Revelstoke Golf Club open weeks early

The club didn’t open until May last year

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Clear skies and pushing 20 C

Environement Canada forcasts a sunny and warm Easter weekend

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

Okanagan township’s open burning winds down

Spallumcheen reminds residents of regulation changes as open burning concludes April 30

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Vernon photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Most Read