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Canadian Nationalists Challenge Trilateral Free-Trade Talks

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CANADIANS, with some notable exceptions, seem reluctant to negotiate a new free-trade pact that includes Mexico as well as the United States. Canada's multinational corporations are clearly interested in making use of Mexico's low-wage work force. But many Canadian cultural, environmental, and nationalist organizations have declared their opposition to a deal.

Trade officials from Canada, the US, and Mexico are set to begin talking June 12 in Toronto. The path to a North American Free Trade Agreement was smoothed when US President Bush announced Feb. 5 that Canada would be a part of the talks.

"Trilateral negotiations with Mexico will primarily serve those US and Canadian corporations that want guaranteed access to cheap Mexican labor," says a report for Action-Canada Network, a nationalist organization.

Many voices point out that trade between Canada and Mexico, worth US$2.3 billion annually, pales in comparison with the US$200 billion in trade between Canada and the US. (See related story, p.7) Canada already has a free-trade deal with the US that began Jan. 1, 1989. The government says Canada could lose trading privileges with the US if it chooses to be an outsider. "Do we want in - with the balanced benefits and phase-in that involves - or do we want to stay out - deprived of all benefits and expose d

to all the downside risks?" asks Michael Wilson, Canada's minister of external affairs and international trade.

Canadian opponents to the pact contend that, by involving Canada, the US moves toward its true objective of gaining concessions that Canada did not grant in the US-Canada pact.

"These trilateral negotiations are really an extension of the existing Free Trade Act," says Tony Clarke, chairman of the Action-Canada Network. "The US has a hit list of concessions they didn't get in the first round."


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