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Canadian Consul General Emphasizes NAFTA's Importance To Ohio

Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Associated Press
President Trump speaks to manufacturers in Cleveland.

Canadian diplomat Douglas George gave a talk to the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Wednesday, as talks resume between the U.S. and Canada on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

George, the Canadian Consul General in Detroit, wouldn’t speculate on the success of the talks but underlined their importance.

“Canada is the United States’ largest customer. We buy more from the United States than any other country in the world,” he says. “So Canada-U.S. trade is important, and Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade through NAFTA has turned out to be very significant avenue of growth for all three countries.”

NAFTA is especially critical for Ohio. Over halfof Ohio's exports go to Canada and Mexico - with 38.8 percent heading north and 13.1 percent going south. Ohio exported $1.5 billion in agricultural products to Canada last year alone.

“Ohio exports more to Canada than the next seven countries combined," George says.

Still, criticisms of NAFTA persist, like lack of access to Canada’s dairy markets and President Trump’s accusation that the pact cost the US hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. George doesn’t disagree that a renegotiation is called for, but he puts more blame on the age of the agreement.

“Among the areas where we don’t have any current rules in NAFTA is e-commerce,” he says. “If you said the word ‘Amazon’ 24 years ago, someone would think of a big river somewhere down in South America. Now it’s one of the largest if not the largest companies in the world, and we don’t have solid rules on that.”

Negotiations between the countries have been going on for more than a year, with Trump recently threatening to leave Canada out entirely. While talks have happened behind closed doors, George believes the negotiators are acting in good faith.

“But we’re certainly all putting the effort into it to find a solution, and I’m optimistic," he says.

And he says Ohio should be paying attention.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.