Snyder wants a say in renegotiated NAFTA

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne came together Monday to stress that they want their voices heard as President Donald Trump demands a negotiation of trade policies between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The two officials made their concerns known as President Donald J. Trump prepares to visit Ypsilanti Township Wednesday to speak about auto-related policies, including a review of Obama administration fuel economy standard rules. Last month, Trump said he intended to “tweak” the U.S. trade relationship with Canada as he presses for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, where he has threatened to slap a tariff of as high as 35 percent on products imported from Mexico.

Snyder and Wynne said they want a voice in the important discussions, holding up their successful partnership in endeavors dealing with trade, the automotive sector and Great Lakes preservation efforts.

“With respect to NAFTA, ...we’ve seen growth in trade. Ontario is our biggest trading partner. Canada is our biggest trading partner,” Snyder said when asked about Trump’s visit. “We want to see that continue.

We need to be very thoughtful in talking about trade issues. I’m going to encourage that to be a growing, positive relationship, particularly between the two countries.”

Michigan’s auto industry relies on NAFTA for the production of some of its vehicles in Ontario as well as the exporting of cars and trucks into Canada without a tariff.

To help that commerce, Snyder said, the Gordie Howe Bridge project between Detroit and Windsor remains on “on track” — it is scheduled to be done by 2020 — and he expects it’s “only going to make for a better, stronger relationship” with Canada.

“It will be the busiest commercial crossing and will generate more jobs,” Snyder said.

Wynne said it’s important for people to understand that jobs on both sides of the border are dependent on each other. She agreed with Snyder how important the agreement is “to the trade relationship that we have developed.”

“In Ontario, I have said to the prime minister, ... we want to have an important role and input into any changes in NAFTA,” Wynne said during the briefing at Cadillac Place in Detroit’s New Center area. “We’re a free-trading province, country and we want to make sure that we continue in that way. We believe it’s in our best interest and in the best interest of our trading partners.”

Snyder also touched on a Trump administration draft proposal to reduce federal aid to the Great Lakes, calling it “a challenge.” The president releases his proposed budget on Thursday.

Wednesday’s visit will be Trump’s first to Michigan since taking office. Snyder said Monday it’ll be a great opportunity to highlight progress in the state with intelligent and autonomous vehicles and the importance of NAFTA.

Earlier this month, congressional Republicans and Democrats from Michigan objected to what could be a massive federal funding cut for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“We’re very early on in this administration,” Snyder said. “This is something we’ll have to wait and see.”

The governor added he is hopeful that there will be continued money to restore the Great Lakes, which he called “one of the world’s greatest assets” and said “I’d like to see that continue.”

Wynne and Snyder are slated to co-host an October meeting on the Great Lakes, Wynne noted.

“Protection of the Great Lakes, it’s something that has been very much a focus of mine as premier and I want to continue to work with all of the Great Lake states to make sure we are good stewards of that ecosystem,” she said.