Two American governors who visited Queen’s Park Tuesday took the time to criticize the “bluster,” “rhetoric,” and “distraction,” coming out of Washington as the U.S. and Canada negotiate their trade relationship.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (D) and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) visited Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Tuesday and then held a joint media availability.
The visit comes as the third round of North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations proceed in Ottawa.
“Clearly NAFTA had to be renegotiated,” said McAuliffe. “In 1994 the internet didn’t even exist. There are new industries and new technologies that have been put in to place since NAFTA first came in. I think everybody’s in agreement that it needs to be re-tuned and refined so that it works for everybody. But obviously, between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. it has created many jobs in the countries involved.”
In his state, about 135,000 jobs have been created because of NAFTA, said McAuliffe.
“Continuing to have open markets and trade is important to all of us, and we need trade agreements that are fair, protect worker rights, protect the environment, but grow the economy. And they’ve got to be fair for all sides involved and I’m hoping at the end of this process, that’s where we’ll be.”
Asked about the controversy over athletes kneeling during the U.S. national anthem has been distracting U.S. President Donald Trump from the trade issue, McAuliffe replied that Trump had caused the distraction.
“He is the one who has weighed-in on the NFL and all these issues,” said McAuliffe. “We have very serious issues in our country with North Korea and elsewhere, that’s what we ought to be focusing on, and on job growth. But are they focused, the administration, on the meetings going on? I can tell you I’m keeping close tabs on the negotiators, as the governors are watching this very closely, as this is critical for all of us.”
McAuliffe went on to say that making all three countries — the U.S., Mexico and Canada — strong through trade is important, and he assumes the president understands that concept.
Hogan added that the timing of the U.S. politicians visit to Canada allowed them to reassure their northern neighbour that the trade relationship between the countries is critical. His state does $3.3 billion of trade with Canada, and the relationship is responsible for 205,000 jobs there.
“So, while there may be distractions in Washington and elsewhere, we wanted to make sure that the Premier and some of the business leaders… knew that this relationship is important to us and that we intend to continue to work toward continuing ongoing trade and the great relationship we have,” said Hogan.
Asked about the threat of U.S. protectionism, the first-term Republican governor described it as “bluster and rhetoric.”
“I think it’s probably safe to say that some of the bluster and the rhetoric that you hear coming out of one part of Washington is not necessarily what the policy is going to end up being,” Hogan said. “I think if you take a look over the long haul, it’s not going to be anything like what the worst fears are.”
McAuliffe chimed to say he’s talked to Trump about an excess of “heated rhetoric” on other issues.
“It’s well-known I was one of the most vocal opponents of the travel ban. I don’t like the immigration policy,” McAuliffe said. “America is an open and welcoming place and we are a land of immigrants and we were built by immigrants and we should never forget that. And as we move forward, I think we need to respect everyone in our country.”
“And I would argue that this rhetoric has to be toned down a bit,” he continued. “We gotta work together, we gotta trade internationally, we got to do business with one another and we just need to be careful about attack those folks that we do business with every single day around the globe. We cannot thrive if we don’t have open markets.”
McAuliffe said on his trade missions — he says he’s been on 31, to about 45 countries — he gets questions about where America is on trade, because of “confusing signals coming out of Washington.”
The message he’s tried to convey is don’t worry about the stuff coming out of the federal government, do business directly with the states and the cities, he said.
“Our message is, let’s do business directly with one and another because, unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion coming out of Washington today, but we want jobs, we want trade, if we do more trade activities, we create more jobs in our respective jurisdictions and that’s what voters want us to do,” McAuliffe said.
Wynne agreed with that, saying the sub-national jurisdictions have a lot of authority to work together on trade, tourism and the environment.
For her part, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser took the opportunity to invite Canadians to visit Washington, saying they’re D.C.’s number-one source of visitors.
“We are here to send the strong message that our region is open, our city is open, nothing changed about who we are and the things that we value last November,” she said.
The meeting was part of Wynne’s American outreach strategy, which has seen her talk trade with the governors of 31 states — so far.
For those keeping track, here are the governors Wynne has met or spoken with so far: Gov. Rick Snyder (Michigan), Gov. Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Gov. Rick Scott (Florida), Gov. Asa Hutchinson (Arkansas), Gov. Bill Haslam (Tennessee), Gov. Eric Holcomb (Indiana), Gov. Phillip Bryant (Mississippi), Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), Gov. Bruce Rauner (Illinois), Gov. Henry McMaster (South Carolina), Gov. Matthew Mead (Wyoming), Gov. Roy Cooper (North Carolina), Gov. Nathan Deal (Georgia), Gov. John Sununu (New Hampshire), Gov. Matt Bevin (Kentucky), Gov. Mary Fallin (Oklahoma), Gov. Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Gov. Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Gov. Larry Hogan (Maryland), Gov. Terry McAuliffe (Virginia), Gov. Bill Walker (Alaska), Gov. Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), Gov. Gary Herbert (Utah), Gov. Gina Raimondo (Rhode Island), Gov. Doug Burgum (North Dakota), Gov. Doug Ducey (Arizona), Gov. Ricky Rossello (Puerto Rico), Gov. Kay Ivey (Alabama), Gov. Dan Malloy (Connecticut), and Gov. Kenneth Mapp (U.S. Virgin Islands).
She’s also met with the following senators, representatives and administration officials: Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas), Rep. Richard Neal (Massachusetts), Rep. Steny Hoyer (Maryland), Rep. Ron Kind (Wisconsin), Sen. Steve Daines (Montana), Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sec. Sonny Perdue (Department of Agriculture), Sec. Wilbur Ross (Department of Commerce), and Everett Eissenstat (Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and Deputy Director, National Economic Council).
See below for a liveblog of the press conference as it happened: