The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 13, 2014 10:11 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 13, 2014 10:21 AM ET
Prime Minister tells B.C. audience he's open to discussing the 20-year-old pact
With the ink still wet on a free-trade deal with South Korea, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada would be willing to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement for the right price.
Harper stopped in Vancouver on his way home from South Korea on Wednesday, wasting no time in selling the new agreement.
In a question-and-answer session at a B.C. Chamber of Commerce gathering, he said his government remains focused on building global trade, "particularly given that some of our traditional trading partners — like the United States — may not have the kind of growth rates that you're talking about for a very long time to come."
That said, the prime minister made it clear that Canada may be interested in renegotiating NAFTA with the U.S. and Mexico.
U.S. President Barack Obama originally vowed to open NAFTA during his first presidential campaign. American officials have again expressed interest in opening the 20-year-old pact, Harper said.
"We're interested in that as well," Harper said during a chummy interview conducted by chamber president John Winter.
"We just have to remind our friends that if we're going to open it, we're going to open it in a way that benefits both of us, not just the United States.
"The United States sometimes expresses the view that NAFTA has certain loopholes. We don't really see them that way," he said to laughter from hundreds of people that packed a hotel ballroom for the morning appearance.
"We happen to think this was a balanced agreement, but certainly if we can deepen it in areas like labour mobility, access of professional services and government procurement, these are big areas where — if we could open up NAFTA and expand its application— it would be very good for Canadian and American business."