Until now, Donald Trump was thinking about Mexico and its relatively low labour costs when he complained about the North American Free Trade Agreement. But as the president-elect approaches his inauguration, he has started to turn his attention to the other NAFTA partner, Canada.
If the Trump transition team is indeed aiming at Canada, it could hurt this country's success.
A Trump transition team memo, leaked to CNN, has specifically targeted two issues key to Canada: softwood lumber; and country-of-origin labelling of meat.
Mr. Trump apparently intends to order the U.S. Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to study what abandoning NAFTA would mean. The memo speaks ominously of an entire renegotiation of NAFTA, or even termination.
The labelling of meat is an odd one for Mr. Trump to target, however, because American labelling rules for country of origin have been found to violate the rules of the World Trade Organization.
Canada has fared well at the WTO. Last year, this country was successful in showing that the U.S. was unjustifiably imposing mandatory labelling – with damages of $1-billion in favour of Canada and $228-million for Mexico, and annually at that.
But it's not hard to imagine Mr. Trump taking some glee in breaking the rules of the WTO or any other international body. Which is too bad. The easy import and export of meat and livestock across the 49th parallel is beneficial to both countries.
Softwood lumber is another matter. There, Mr. Trump's people may have a point. The provincial Crown of B.C. has a pattern of trying to sell wood destined for the U.S. at what seem to be artificially low rates, undercutting the U.S. industry. It would be good to be free of the repetitive ritual dance of softwood lumber disputes, a chronic condition that breaks out every time there is an election in a northern American state with a powerful forestry lobby.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was right to tell Mr. Trump last week that Canada is open to some revision of NAFTA. But the president-elect should be reminded that NAFTA as a whole is as mutually beneficial as ever.