Gov. Snyder, Ontario Premier carefully dance around Trump policies

Posted at 12:03 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 14:48:18-04

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne carefully danced around multiple policies proposed by President Donald Trump during a joint announcement on Monday.

Among the many topics the two leaders touched on, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Great Lakes and borders were most frequently discussed.

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The case for NAFTA

Trump has said he would like to renegotiate NAFTA, which allows the United States, Mexico and Canada to freely trade across borders.

"With respect to NAFTA, we've seen great trade and growth," Snyder said. "Ontario and Canada are our biggest trading partners. We need to be very thoughtful when we're talking about trading issues."

According to Wynne, nearly $21 billion (USD) were exported to Ontario from Michigan in 2016, and 290,000 jobs are dependent on the two-way trade between Canada/Ontario and Michigan.

"There are occasions in Ontario where Michigan and the northern states are seen as competitors," Wynne said. "But I think part of the exercise as we go through this discussion on NAFTA is for people to understand how integrated and how interdependent that we are."

"If we can promote the region and how we're working together, that positions us better in a global economy," Snyder added.

Early last month, Trump spoke out strongly against NAFTA, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto saying they would start trade negotiations in May.

"I don't care if it's a renovation of NAFTA or a brand new NAFTA, but we do have to make it fair and it's very unfair for the American worker," Trump said.

"We're a region of the world where when we partner together,we can send a message that this is the best place to make the best products in the world," Snyder said. "We shouldn't spend time looking at our differences, we should spend time looking at how we can be together."

The case for the Great Lakes

Both Snyder and Wynne also discussed the importance of the Great Lakes for both Michigan and Ontario.

"The Great Lakes is one of the world's greatest assets," Snyder said. "We care deeply about that region."

Earlier this month, Trump and the White House unveiled a new budget with major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding that helps clean up pollution in the Great Lakes. The funding was slashed by 97 percent and was the second biggest cut behind the San Francisco Bay.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would have its funding cut from $300 million to just $10 million. Launched in 2010, it helps promote the restoration of the Great Lakes, which is the largest system of fresh surface water in the world.

"I think that's a challenge, and I wouldn't like to see it at that level," Snyder said of the 97 percent cut. "I think we're early on in this administration. I think there's been a lot of challenges to the EPA in terms of the number of regulations they've done, but I think this is something we'll have to wait and see and hopefully encourage that we have the resources to continue the restoration of the Great Lakes."

Snyder and Wynne said they are co-hosting the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers Meeting in October, saying they are both focused on continuing to work with the region and the ecosystem.

"If you talk to anyone in Canada or the U.S. and the Great Lakes come up, it's a special thing," Snyder said.

The case for border security

The issue of borders was also brought up during the joint conference between Wynne and Snyder.

"The only barrier we occasionally have is a border and that's a national issue, and we're working in terms of minimizing those," Snyder said.

In February, Trump met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for a stronger relationship between the two countries.

"Prime Minister, I pledge to work with you in pursuit of our many shared interests. This includes a stronger trading relationship between the United States and Canada," Trump said. "It includes a safe, efficient and responsible cross-border travel and migration, and it includes close partnership on domestic and international security."