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Trump's NAFTA announcement prompts mixed reactions

Chris Caya
A long line of trucks waits to enter the U.S. on the Peace Bridge.

President Trump's trade announcement has drawn mixed reactions. For some leaders, the fact that Mexican and U.S. negotiators worked out their differences is encouraging. It is a sign that the United States and Canada will be able to do the same. However, others say the deal with Mexico could be disastrous for the U.S.-Canada relationship.

Former North Country Congressman Bill Owens spent decades promoting cross-border trade. The Democrat blasted the Trump administration’s announcement of a framework agreement with Mexico.

“Obviously it’s very discouraging that Mr. Trump would do that. That’s the kind of thing that could be very disruptive to our region in particular,” Owens said. “I would like to see Canada in the deal. I think it’s best for the United States overall and I think it’s best for our Canadian friends - and I hope that’s exactly what happens."

The Trump administration says it may include Canada in this new arrangement with Mexico or work out a separate deal. Owens said Trump appears to be shooting from the hip without any real strategy - and he said the final outcome could be the end of free trade between Canada and the United States – at least temporarily.

“As I understand the process, if the president goes ahead and signs the agreement with Mexico, then that will be a causative factor to terminate all of NAFTA," Owens said, "and then what you wind up with is, short term at least, you will have a bilateral agreement with Mexico and no agreement with Canada.”

Other leaders were cautiously optimistic. In a statement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Albany) said the U.S.-Mexico Free Trade Agreement is “an encouraging development,” but she added that it is “vital” there is an agreement with Canada, too.

Garry Douglas with the North Country Chamber of Commerce issued similar remarks.

"The positive conclusion of negotiations with Mexico is very welcome," Douglas said. "Given the broad economic differences between the two countries, along with other specific bi-lateral issues, it was assumed this negotiation would be the most challenging. But agreement has been reached, and on terms that will be good for both."

He added that it’s “now essential that a positive conclusion be reached as soon as possible with Canada.”

Douglas said there is a lot of uncertainty right now for companies along the Canada-U.S. border and that has already had negative economic impacts "in terms of an understandable pause in crossborder investment and other decisions that would be to our benefit." He said those impacts could worsen unless the two nations reach an agreement soon.

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