The federal election result has thrown a wrench in the government’s plans to negotiate an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and open up access to the Pacific Rim.
The Trudeau government’s decision to delay its NAFTA negotiations has also forced Ottawa to seek a better deal with the U.S. for the auto sector.
But while the deal is not dead, it will be at least a year before the government can conclude a trade agreement with the new administration.
“It’s an extraordinary time in Canadian history, a time of transition, of change,” Liberal foreign affairs critic Maxime Bernier told reporters after the election results.
“And we have to keep that in mind.”
The deal was supposed to be finalised in 2017, but the Liberals, with the support of the Conservative government, were unable to make it happen.
In the meantime, Canada is going to wait for the Trump administration to negotiate a better trade deal.
Bernier said it was a “difficult decision” to delay the NAFTA talks, but it was the right decision.
“I’m not going to go into details, but I would hope that Canadians can look at this and say, well, what could we do differently?
What would we be able to do differently to make sure that we could have a better relationship with our neighbours and the United States?”
Bernier, who campaigned on a platform of free trade, was not the only one who called for the Trudeau government to be more aggressive in renegotiating the deal.
“We’ve got to be better than this,” said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
“We’ve had a bad deal from the very beginning.
We’ve had one of the worst trade agreements in Canadian recent history.
I think we’ve got a lot to learn from this.”
The Liberals have been looking to trade partners such as the U:U.S., Mexico and Canada for years, but there was no consensus on a deal.
Trudeau, who was elected on a promise to end NAFTA and make it a model for other countries, took the lead on the talks, and the Liberal government said it would be more than happy to negotiate.
“This is a very, very important trade agreement for Canadians,” Trudeau told reporters in a video released after the elections.
“It’s been an important part of our economy, of our jobs, and of our global trade, and it will continue to be for many years to come.”
The Canadian government has been able to open up more of the Pacific rim to Canadian companies in recent years, including the automotive sector, but that has not been enough for many Canadians who want more access to their cars in the North.
The government also has a number of other deals in the works, including an agreement to create a national minimum wage, which is currently set at $15 per hour.
“There is no question that the trade agreement that was agreed to at the outset is the one that is in the best interests of Canadians and the country,” Bernier said.
“What I would ask is, is this one a good deal for Canadians?
And it’s not, and that’s why I’m calling on the government to move ahead with a better agreement with our NAFTA partners.”