Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Government Researched How Trump Could Have Achieved Quick NAFTA Win

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Government Researched How Trump Could Have Achieved Quick NAFTA Win

Article excerpt

Canadians studied how to get quick NAFTA fix

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WASHINGTON - The Canadian government produced a paper shortly after Donald Trump's election outlining in broad strokes how the incoming U.S. president could have pursued a quick, substantive, and successful renegotiation of NAFTA.

The paper was produced late last year and provides a glimpse at a now-hypothetical alternate reality where the new administration might have opted for a renegotiation by executive order, rather than the current legislative process.

It lists different areas where changes might have been achieved by executive actions: auto parts rules of origin, professional work visas, intellectual property protections, digital commerce, procurement, state-owned enterprises, and interpretations of dispute-settlement cases.

It was produced at the request of senior political officials, who in initial conversations with top-ranking members of the incoming Trump administration heard some suggest a preference for quick action that bypassed the complex legislative process.

''It never got very far,'' one Canadian official said.

But the resulting research, obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, offers a peek down a road not travelled. Gathered by departmental bureaucrats, it was signed by deputy trade minister Tim Sargent and date-stamped Dec. 30, 2016.

Sargent's 13-page response examines the procedural differences between legislated and non-legislated changes to NAFTA in all three countries, with half of the document specifically looking at non-legislated changes in the U.S.

It begins: ''The explanation below provides a preliminary assessment of actions that could possibly be taken to supplement or amend the NAFTA in a reasonably quick manner that also would not require Congress to act.''

It cites three ways to change a trade deal without congressional votes:

--Amendments to annexes and tariff schedules

--Country-to-country agreements that require no legislation

--Clarifying statements

It offers examples of how these three measures could achieve changes in some key areas now central to the negotiations.

But even those supposedly simpler fixes carried potential trouble. …

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