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With NAFTA talks faltering, CPTPP agreement viewed optimistically by Canadians



Angus Reid Institute

The year 2018 is off to a much better start for Canada’s trade negotiators than 2017. The government announced on January 23rd that it reached an agreement to sign onto a revised version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 other Pacific Rim nations, including economic behemoth Japan.

The new version, sans United States, has been labeled the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). It really rolls off your tongue. After Canada was reportedly something of a roadblock in discussions at the tail-end of 2017 in Vietnam, Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne now says the government is satisfied with an “improved arrangement” on autos and intellectual property. This progress is somewhat antithetical to what Canadians have experienced in trade negotiations over the past year.

Threats to the existence of Canada’s most important free trade agreement became an uncomfortable reality for Canadians and their policymakers in 2017. The most recent example of this came last month, ahead of the most recent formal meeting of American, Canadian and Mexican officials in Montreal, two Canadian officials voiced their expectation that Donald Trump will, at some point, pull the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This is something he has threatened numerous times since his inauguration at the beginning of 2017.

Alongside the frustration of negotiating with a partner who may or may not be acting in good faith is the troublesome possibility that Canada faces an uncertain period ahead, where tariffs and walls may pop up where once a common space for exchange existed. Regardless of the potential suitors for economic cooperation outside North America, there is simply no replacing Canada’s economic relationship with the U.S. – three-quarters of this country’s exports are heading south each year.

Within this environment, the Angus Reid Institute has tracked two intertwining trends in Canadian public opinion over the past year.

Trend – Canadians (now) love their NAFTA

The attack on NAFTA appears to be one Canadians have taken personally. In the summer of 2016, before high-profile comments about tearing up the agreement came from then-candidate Trump, just one-in-four Canadians (25%) said that the agreement had benefitted their country. In February of 2017, a few weeks after the President’s inauguration, that number had jumped to 44 per cent. In September, ahead of the third round of negotiations on a new NAFTA, it rose again, to 47 per cent.

NAFTA Canada Trump

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Or, at the very least, until you realize someone may be trying to take it from you.

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