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NAFTA talks a priority for Premier-designate Doug Ford

Premier-designate Doug Ford is indicating that NAFTA will be a key priority for his incoming Progressive Conservative government.

Ford, whose party defeated Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in last Thursday’s election, underscored that keeping trade flowing with the United States is critical to Ontario’s economy.

The Tory leader will meet Wednesday morning at Queen’s Park with industry officials to discuss Canada’s continuing North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations with President Donald Trump’s administration.

On Thursday afternoon, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton will be in Toronto to brief the premier-designate on the contentious trade talks.

“I can tell you, on the trade deal south of the border, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister and our federal counterparts,” Ford said Sunday of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“My number one priority is to protect the jobs here in Ontario, especially protect the steel workers and aluminum workers. That’s going to be a priority,” he said.

“We’re going to sit down with our federal counterparts. We’re going to stand united. I know all provinces should be standing united with our federal counterparts.”

While Ford’s government will not be sworn in until June 29, the NAFTA situation with the mercurial U.S. president is so critical, he wants to get up to speed.

About 80 per cent of all Ontario exports are shipped stateside and the province is the top trading partner of half of all American states.

Ontario’s next premier has John Baird, a former foreign affairs minister on his transition team, so there is a high level of understanding of the trade circumstances.

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