Canadian Manufacturing

Canadians looking across the Atlantic for future trade, says Angus Reid

A new survey from the research organization finds that 44 per cent of Canadians want stronger trade ties with Europe, compared to just 41 per cent who favour the U.S. Those polled aren't bullish on China (24 per cent) or India (13 per cent)


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VANCOUVER—As negotiators for Canada, the United States and Mexico revealed this week they’ve made little progress on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, the latest public opinion survey from the Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians increasingly looking to trading partners in Europe.

Angus Reid says that in the last seven months, Canadian opinion has shifted away from deepening trade ties with the U.S., and toward a stronger relationship with the European Union, where a free trade agreement with Canada was ratified earlier this year.

Asked which countries or regions Canada should seek a closer relationship with, the number of Canadians saying “continue to focus on the U.S.” has fallen from 49 per cent to 41 per cent since February, 2017. In the same time period, the number expressing a preference for the E.U. has grown from 33 per cent to 44 per cent.

Angus Reid says that polling revealing Donald Trump’s unpopularity in Canada, Canadians’ lack of confidence in ongoing NAFTA talks, and a rise in support for CETA points to possible factors responsible for the change in opinion.

Even as the Trudeau government continues to hash out differences with its NAFTA neighbours, the government has also been conducting exploratory trade talks with China.

But Angus Reid says Canadians are largely unconvinced on China. Just 29 per cent say they would support a free trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy, but 31 per cent oppose such a deal. 40 per cent are uncertain.

Support for expanded trade with China is low, just 24 per cent, but it has twice as much support as India (13 per cent).

When it comes to the optimism of Canada’s international competitiveness in general, the survey finds Canadians divided. 48 per cent think we are “keeping up” with others, while the rest (52 per cent) think Canada is falling behind.

Angus Reid says that while opinions on Canadian trade performance are split, these numbers are significantly more positive than when the research organization asked Canadians a generation ago, in 1991. At that time, when the country was experiencing a brutal recession and North American free trade was still just a work in progress, 31 per cent said Canada was keeping up while 63 per cent said we were falling behind.


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