NA leaders confront rising tide of protectionism

Obama, Trudeau and Nieto stress need for economic cooperation.

June 29, 2016   by CP Staff

OTTAWA — The leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico convened a summit June 29 intended to reaffirm their close co-operation on security, the environment and trade at a time of rising extremist threats around the globe and isolationist calls in the American presidential campaign.

President Barack Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the North American Leaders’ Summit. Obama planned to address the Canadian Parliament – the ninth American leader to do so and the first since Bill Clinton in 1995.

The fallout from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union also was expected to be on the agenda.

Co-operation on a range of issues was a summit theme less than a week after Britain’s vote to leave the EU highlighted public fears about globalization.


The meeting came as Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for US president, blamed globalization for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and threatened to extricate the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement, in effect since 1994. Trump has also pledged that as president, he would withdraw from an agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that has yet to take effect. And it was only last week that Britain voted to leave the European Union. Trump also has advocated building a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Obama, before meeting with Pena Nieto, emphasized America’s ties with Mexico.

“At a time when we all too often are hearing rhetoric that ignores the enormous contributions that have been made by Mexicans-Americans and the enormous strengths that we draw from in the relationship with our good neighbour’s to the south, it’s been useful for us to reaffirm all the issues we’ve been working on together,” Obama said.

Pena Nieto stressed the need for economic co-operation among countries.

“We must acknowledge that isolationism cannot bring prosperity to a society,” he said. “It is from a collective effort between the countries that are located in one same region.”

Earlier, Trudeau pointed to the North American example of economic integration and warned of the risks of protectionism and nationalism.

“Better collaboration, better partnerships are a path to prosperity,” Trudeau said. “And that’s a compelling example that we want to showcase at a time where, unfortunately, people are prone to turning inwards, which will be at the cost of economic growth and their own success.”

Trudeau and Pena Nieto announced measures to reduce barriers during the Mexican leader’s state visit to Canada before the summit. Trudeau said Canada will lift visa requirements for Mexican visitors as of December 2016. Pena Nieto agreed to open Mexican markets to Canadian beef.

Efforts to curb global warming were a big part of the summit. The leaders pledged to rely on renewable energy to generate 50% of North America’s electrical power by 2025 and Mexico would commit to joining the United States and Canada in tackling methane emissions.

Obama adviser Brian Deese said it was an unprecedented effort to develop a continent-wide strategy on climate change and that the U.S. has the tools it needs, including tax credits for renewables, to reach the target.

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