As NAFTA negotiations turn tense, Canadians look beyond U.S. for future trade

As negotiators for Canada, the United States, and Mexico revealed this week they’ve made little progress on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the latest public opinion survey from the Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians increasingly looking to partners other than the U.S. to safeguard international trade.

In the last seven months, as U.S. President Donald Trump has repeated protectionist rhetoric and threatened to “terminate” NAFTA if current talks don’t go his way, Canadian opinion has shifted away from deepening trade ties with the United States, and toward a stronger relationship with the European Union, where a free trade agreement with Canada was ratified earlier this year.

Asked which countries or regions Canada should seek a closer relationship with, the number of Canadians saying “continue to focus on the U.S.” has fallen eight percentage points (from 49 per cent to 41 per cent) since February. In the same time period, the number expressing a preference for the E.U. has grown by 11 points (from 33 per cent to 44 per cent).

canadian trade partners

Key Findings:

  • Asked to choose the countries or regions with which Canada should pursue closer trade ties, 44 per cent of Canadians opt for the European Union, while 41 per cent say this country should continue to focus on the United States. The United Kingdom – which voted to leave the E.U. last year – is next, at 29 per cent
  • Canadians are divided as to which of Asia’s two largest countries – China or India – their country should put more effort into. Half (49 per cent) choose China and half (51 per cent) choose India. More data on Canadian views on China’s economic relationship with this country will be released next week
  • Also divisive is the question of Canada’s international competitiveness. Half of respondents (48%) think this country is “keeping up” with others, while the rest (52 per cent) think Canada is falling behind

Link to the poll here: www.angusreid.org/canadian-trade-partners