London Coun. Josh Morgan pushes for NAFTA input

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The City of London wants to let U.S. President Donald Trump know what’s important to the local economy.

But some London business leaders are questioning whether he’ll listen, or care, and whether it’s worth the effort.

City politicians want a voice at the North American Free Trade Agreement table, voting this week at a committee meeting to ask city business groups to offer up a profile of how U.S. trade affects our local economy, with an eye to telling the federal government what to protect in bargaining.

“We have a significant supply chain connection with the U.S., the more information the federal government has, the better it will be to negotiate on behalf of London and Southwestern Ontario,” said Coun. Josh Morgan, who raised the issue at corporate services committee.

“Data and information we can provide will help us understand the consequences of change.”

If council passes the motion next week, the city will ask the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC) and the London Chamber of Commerce to gather data.

The renewed NAFTA talks are set to begin Aug. 16 in Washington.

Seeking to remind NAFTA negotiators about London is a “noble gesture,” but the local chamber will respectfully decline, said chamber chief executive Gerry Macartney.

It already has analyzed NAFTA’s impact, and sent “reams” of information to federal officials. Its national president, Perrin Beatty, visited 14 U.S. states to preach the virtues of free trade, he added.

“We have sent eight or nine documents already on this. We have been involved for about two years,” said Macartney.

He called for a one-page letter of support from the city to federal negotiators. “The message is correct, we need to be there, but we can do it in a letter.”

Kapil Lakhotia, LEDC’s chief executive, questioned what information he can provide that will help.

“We have not been asked for anything yet, but it is difficult to nail down trading data on a local level,” said Lakhotia.

Jeffrey Gandz, a retired Richard Ivey school of business professor, likes that politicians want to remind Ottawa what’s important here, but downplayed the impact talks could have on the city and region.

“It is a good idea for a municipality to know how these movements at a high level affect them. If they have information about London and Southwestern Ontario, it could help,” said Gandz.

“You always have to be concerned, what has been announced so far is gentle language with conceivably tough things buried in it,” said Gandz.

Talks reportedly will focus on dairy, softwood lumber, banking and broadcasting. The manufacturing and auto sector here is highly integrated with the U.S. and there is a trade balance in manufacturing between the countries.

Gandz also believes Canada benefited from free trade, with economic growth and job creation. 

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