By Barry Ellsworth
Canada must secure all-encompassing free trade deals with Europe and Asia in the face of uncertainty in dealing with the U.S., traditionally its largest trading partner, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the total trade between the two countries was an estimated US$673.9 billion in 2017.
But the Trump administration’s refusal to sign a new North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico, along with U.S. imposed tariffs, means Canada must open up trade routes elsewhere, Trudeau said.
During a press conference in Nova Scotia, Tuesday, he emphasized better trade deals with Europe and Asia, but also said trade barriers amongst Canada’s 10 provinces must end. For example, beer made in one province is not allowed to flow freely across all provincial boundaries.
“You can understand that it’s kind of frustrating, not just for Canadians, but for me to see continued trade barriers to internal trade in Canada,” he said. “If we want to continue to demonstrate that free trade is good for consumers, then we need to do a better job of demonstrating that here in Canada.
“We have to make sure at times of challenges to trade with our most significant trading partner (U.S.), there are no challenges to trade within Canada.”
In contrast to Trump who has criticized global free trade, Trudeau has advocated the practice whenever he gets a chance.
Speaking of Trump, Trudeau refused to comment on the American president’s performance at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He did, however, go after Putin, in contrast to Trump’s soft-pedal statements.
“Canada has been unequivocal in our condemnation of Vladimir Putin and Russia,” Trudeau said.
“Whether it is their illegal annexation of Crimea, their incursion into the Donbass in Ukraine … and the support for the murderous Assad regime, whether it is what they were responsible for in the chemical attacks in Syria on U.K. soil against British nationals, Canada has always been clear.”