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Reality check Canada has ‘no appetite to scrap trade,’ despite NAFTA poll

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OTTAWA – With Brexit and growing U.S. protectionism as a backdrop, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, standing next to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, warned Tuesday that ”turning inwards” will come ”at the cost of economic growth.”

But as headlines indicated this week, only one in four Canadians thinks the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is good for the country, according to the Angus Reid Institute.

It’s a ”stunning rejection” of the ”free-trade agenda,” the Council of Canadians proclaimed Tuesday. But others question whether policymakers and politicians have managed to communicate the benefits of integration.(NAFTA poll)

How do we really feel?

NAFTA came into effect in 1994, replacing the 1987 Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement.

About 10 years on, a 2003 Ipsos Reid survey found 70 per cent of Canadians supported the deal.

But 22 years later, half of Canadians were neutral or unsure. A quarter think it’s bad, but another quarter think it’s good.

There is no appetite to scrap trade. Canada ”_ has morphed into a pro-trade country.

Though 34 per cent said the deal should be ”renegotiated,” 24 per cent said it should be ”strengthened and expanded.” More people would leave it as it is (11 per cent) than would kill it (nine per cent).(NAFTA poll)

Nearly a quarter don’t know how they feel. Roughly the same proportion were found in U.K. polls to be unsure about leaving the European Union, three months before last week’s referendum.

”There is no appetite to scrap trade,” said pollster Shachi Kurl. ”Canada ”_ has morphed into a pro-trade country.” Polls last year found 57 per cent of Canadians saw international trade as the No. 1 foreign policy priority.(NAFTA poll)

Laura Dawson, director of the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute, said NAFTA is a ”bad brand,” but people still support exports and foreign investment.

But what has NAFTA actually done?

Canada and Mexico both do far more trade with the U.S. than with each other.(NAFTA poll)

The U.S. sees a modest, but positive, impact from NAFTA, most think-tanks agree. Some debate whether the deal has stymied Mexico’s growth. Canada is generally seen as a winner.ÊÊÊ

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