NAFTA, Shakwak funding take precedence during Silver’s trip to Washington

As the Council of the Federation concludes its trip to Washington D.C., the delegation of premiers has one clear message: the North American Free Trade Agreement needs to be modernized.

As the Council of the Federation concludes its trip to Washington D.C., the delegation of premiers has one clear message: the North American Free Trade Agreement needs to be modernized.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the plug on the 23-year-old trade agreement, casting some doubt on its future. What seems more likely is that Canada, the United States and Mexico will renegotiate the deal.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talked about the importance of mining to the Yukon economy and the territory’s close relationship with Alaska.

“There’s so much more we can do on free trade,” said Silver, who is leading the Canadian delegation as chair of the Council of the Federation.

“What’s important for Alaska is important for the Yukon. Our families and economies are interconnected,” he said.

The uncertainty currently surrounding NAFTA has most premiers hoping for a hasty renegotiation, or, as most put it, modernization.

“Especially with NAFTA, it’s important that we get things done sooner rather than later,” said Silver. “Having questions and not knowing is not good for the economy of both nations.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has been optimistic about what she’s heard in Washington “I would say that overall the quicker, less comprehensive review is what people are looking at,” she said. “I think there’s a hope that we can move through this pretty efficiently, improve what’s there, add what’s missing.”

The pace of technological change has left the original NAFTA, which came into effect in 1994, behind. Data services and certain intellectual-property rules for new technologies are not covered by the agreement.

Ultimately, negotiations will take place between the federal governments, but Silver said the premiers have been talking with federal Liberal government and remain confident their interests will be represented.

“It’s important for us to have a united front when negotiating trade,” said Silver, stressing the advantage of “strength in numbers.”

The seven premiers, including Silver, who attended the NAFTA panel in Washington on June 8 seemed to be taking this seriously. All spoke of the need to modernize the agreement, while at the same time emphasizing how important it has been for job creation in Canada and the United States.

“We won’t live in a world without NAFTA,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball, who called a potentially renegotiated agreement “NAFTA 2.0.”

However, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister took a more hostile tone.

“I’ve seen the United States bully,” he said. “I’ve seen the United States hurt industry in Canada with bullying tactics…. We’re in a relationship where we need rules.”

Aside from the NAFTA panel, Silver also met with representatives from Alaska and the Federal Highway Administration, whom he intended to lobby for new funding under the Shakwak Agreement which pays for maintenance on the Alaksa and Haines highways.

Silver said he also pushed for protection of the Porcupine caribou herd’s breeding grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration has moved to open up oil exploration in the refuge, to the ire of the Gwich’in and environmental groups, who have managed to keep it off limits to development for decades.

Silver said he was able to have “frank conversations” with his American counterparts, but was ultimately unsuccessful in securing any guarantees on either issue. However, he is optimistic dialogue will continue.

“We have a commitment with our Alaskan counterparts that we communicate, that we keep in touch and know what the next steps are,” he said. “We got Shakwak on the table for them to consider.”

The Yukon Party, who also previously lobbied for Shakwak funding in Washington, has been critical of the Premier’s trip, calling it “unsuccessful.”

They did agree, however, that modernizing NAFTA may benefit Yukoners, as long as Silver is able to convey the Yukon’s interests to the federal government.

With a report from CP

Contact Andrew Seal at andrew.seal@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read