Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary of the United States, will visit Ottawa, Canada on Friday morning for a tryst with Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau. This is the maiden move by a U.S Treasury Secretary, to visit the Canadian capital in a decade. This also comes at a period when the two countries are undergoing some tension over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and squabbles over dairy and lumber products.
Matters to be deliberated on include, tax reform, economic policy and security, trade and terror financing, financial regulatory reform, a senior Treasury official says. “We are not eyeing to start negotiations yet, on any topics. We still have domestic work to do, then again we want to get a sense from the Canadians on the timing for them,” the official said.
Canadian Finance Minister Morneau says he looks forward to meeting the Secretary Mnuchin, “…as we deliberate on the significance of our economic and business relationships.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office says the complete trade between the United States and Canada summed up to about $628 billion in 2016. The U.S has a $12.5 billion trade excess with Canada, owing to the fact that they exported about $320 billion in goods and services the previous year. The U.S. is Canada’s main export market, totaling almost $308 billion.
In spite of that, new trade disagreements have ensued due to import of the U.S. dairy products and import of Canadian soft lumber. The U.S. is also in the middle of a 90-day discussion process, a preparation for the renegotiation of NAFTA with Canada. When asked about the timing, the senior Treasury official said “I think we would accede to the U.S. Commerce Department and USTR for timing of negotiations but then again we are aiming to move swiftly and hope to conclude as soon as possible.”
Friday will also welcome the discussion of defense issues, since Canada just pronounced its intention to develop defense spending by 73% over the next decade, from 18.9 billion Canadian dollars a year to 32.7 billion Canadian dollars in 2027, or just about 24.2 billion U.S. dollars. The publication of the growth in defense spending comes just two weeks after the American president demanded NATO members increase their defense disbursements. Not to mention that Secretary Mnuchin has made anti-terror financing and cybersecurity a central aspect of his tenure.
J C Loum