According to a Globe and Mail story reported late Tuesday, Ottawa has opened the door to concessions to supply management in order to renegotiate NAFTA. These potential concessions would likely be the result of American president Donald Trump’s ultimatum to Canada to renegotiate the agreement by Friday.
The White House notably announced a “preliminary agreement in principle” between Mexico and the United States, which Trump has dubbed the “US-Mexico trade deal.” Trump has been adamant on his opposition to supply management; attacking the Canadian policy on his Twitter account.
After arriving in Washington Tuesday to enter negotiations, Canadian minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland announced that she was “encouraged” by the agreement between the United States and Mexico.
However, electoral timelines make the negotiations a contested political issue. Trudeau, who faces a federal election in 2019, aims to avoid being seen as ceding to the American president. The Trump administration hopes to resolve the agreement before the midterm elections in November. Additionally, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto likely intends to sign a commercial agreement before making way to his successor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on December 1.
“Just watch me,” Quebec Premier Couillard Responds
In the midst of an election campaign concluding October 1, Quebec Liberal premier Philippe Couillard seemingly warned Ottawa on its potential openness to concede on supply management.
“Just watch me,” declared Couillard when questioned by reporters on his willingness to protect the policy.
“We are opposed, not just my party–the majority of Quebec’s population–is opposed to a concession on supply management.”
“There will be serious political consequences to pose such a gesture,” affirmed the prime minister.
In a flip-flop from a previous position, Couillard stated that he would be open to signing a letter with other provincial political parties defending supply management. This would demonstrate a common front on the issue from Quebec’s political class.
By having a strong position in defense of supply management, Couillard likely hopes to strengthen the party’s nationalist flank in face of the Coalition Avenir Quebec, who currently holds a lead in the polls.
Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québécois, declared that he was encouraged by the about-face of Philippe Couillard.
“The image of four leaders in campaign who seem to be together to read a common declaration, that’s an image that we want to send to Ottawa and Washington.”