NAFTA talks ‘absolutely fundamental’ to provincial economy, says manufacturers group

As talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement kicked off Wednesday, a lot is on the line for New Brunswick businesses trading with the United States.

Fifty per cent of the province’s gross domestic product is tied to exports, and New Brunswick is the most extensive trade economy in the country, said Joel Richardson, regional vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

He said the renewed NAFTA negotiations are “absolutely fundamental” to the provincial economy.

“We export more to the United States and the rest of the world than anyone else does as a percentage of our overall economy,” Richardson said.

“There’s thousands upon thousands of families in New Brunswick that are relying on manufacturing and exporting in the U.S. and selling to the U.S. So it’s tremendously important.”

Reduced trade barriers

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week that Canada is looking for a progressive trade deal, with stricter environmental and labour standards, as well as a focus on climate change.

The country also wants freer movement of professionals, and protection of its supply management system for dairy and poultry, since Canada does not have free trade in these areas.

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