Foothills MP John Barlow along with fellow Conservative Party delegates were in Washington, D.C. for a trade mission last week.
During the two-day trip, they met with industry leaders, Congressional and Senate representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of trade with Canada and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Barlow, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food, was joined by Party Leader Andrew Scheer, Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt, Shadow Minister for International Trade Dean Allison and the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Canada-US Relations, Colin Carrie.
Barlow says they felt the need to convey their ongoing interests in maintaining a strong trade relationship with the Americans and, more significantly, establish a united front with the leading Liberals in the ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
“The whole idea for us to go down there was to talk about the importance of NAFTA to Canada, but also the benefits to the United States and outline some of the potential risks to both our countries should we lose NAFTA,” he says.
Since the beginning of his term in office, U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to pull out of the agreement, which has left the Canadian and Mexican governments scrambling to make a deal.
Barlow says Canada has much to offer, especially in the agriculture sector, which he says accounts for $50 billion in exports and imports between the two countries annually.
“That supports a number of jobs in our rural communities on both sides of the border,” he says. “Our farmers, ranchers and Ag business owners in Canada support NAFTA, and certainly south of the border, our colleagues in the Ag industry also support (it).”
Barlow says the agriculture industry in both countries would benefit from a harmonization of regulations for approvals for vet medicines, pesticides, new seeds and crop varieties.
“There's a chance for us to not duplicate the work of those things and be able to bring those to market much quicker,” he adds.
Barlow says he and his fellow Conservatives received overwhelming support for NAFTA from all stakeholders including Democrat and Republican Party representatives.
He says the goal at the moment is to keep the multi-lateral negotiations from turning into bilateral talks.
“That’s a last resort,” he adds, saying the government is prepared to address the issue if all else fails. “Our job right now is to try and salvage NAFTA until we get to that point.”
Representatives from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are in Montreal this week for the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations.
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