Chrystia Freeland

Chrystia Freeland, shown in a Canadian Press photo from Tuesday, was praised by Courier reader John Bailey for her work on the challenging NAFTA file.

Dear Editor:

One of the great achievements of the Liberal government has been the successful renegotiation of NAFTA. Yes, it still has to be ratified by U.S. Congress, but that does not diminish the achievement thus far.

From the outset, Canada did not have a strong negotiating position, and Minister Chrystia Freeland was dealing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (a man with a reputation for never compromising or conceding anything) and his boss Donald Trump (enough said).

There were many ominous projections predicting dire economic consequences and a very poor outcome for Canada. This has not been the case.

A critical factor in this success has been Freeland. She set about the process in a low key, intelligent and structured way. Very considerable amounts of time were spent travelling to the U.S. visiting governors, legislators and other stakeholders explaining the facts and issues in a factual and measured way. There was no arm waving, threatening behaviour or indeed scare mongering — just hard facts and rigorous analysis.

Throughout the process, Freeland refused to be drawn on or respond to criticisms from Trump or indeed his team. She was always extremely calm, gracious and balanced in answering press questions and refused to be drawn on the latest Trump barb or change of direction. The result of her efforts is a deal that is reasonably satisfactory and much better than was predicted by many. Well done Freeland.

Remember that Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives wanted to concede early on a number of points because they felt that the renegotiation was a lost cause and they just wanted to salvage something/anything. In other words, they panicked and the result could have been a significantly disadvantageous deal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team of advisers are also to be congratulated for their intelligent management. They identified Freeland’s talent (she was a highly-respected journalist and Rhodes Scholar) during the Stephen Harper regime and persuaded her to run. When she was moved from the trade file to foreign affairs she retained the NAFTA file.

Freeland was allowed to manage the important negotiations with no interference. This is sign of good management namely, find the right people, give them a clear mandate, let them get on with it and, critically, do not panic.

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