TORONTO – Only one in four Canadians say the North American Free Trade Agreement is good for their country, and more than one-third want it renegotiated, according to a poll ahead of a leaders’ summit on Wednesday.
The survey from the Angus Reid Institute on Monday come as protectionist sentiment swells in the United States, where voters at both ends of the political spectrum question the economic benefits of NAFTA.
The U.S. Congress is hesitating to ratify the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, which also includes Canada and Mexico.
Trade has long been a focus at the so-called “Three Amigos” summits between NAFTA members, Canada, the United States and Mexico, held this year in Ottawa.
The matter has also become a lightning rod issue in the election campaign to replace U.S. President Barack Obama, who wants Congress to ratify TPP before he leaves office on Jan. 20.
Republican Donald Trump, his party’s presumptive nominee for 2016, has attacked the TPP and describes NAFTA as a disaster that needs to be renegotiated or shelved. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has also said she opposes the TPP.
Angus Reid Institute’s poll showed also one-quarter of Canadians feel NAFTA hurts the country, while half were either unsure or feel the deal has had no impact either way.
The institute’s executive director, Shachi Kurl, said the survey contrasts with past polls on other trade deals, in which Canadians were more likely to support than oppose them.
“Is this simply a gap in policy makers’ adequately convincing Canadians that this has been a good deal?” she said. “Is NAFTA an exception in that Canadians see the specific trade deal as a bad deal? These are questions that we have to think on.”
Kurl added the poll raises the question of whether Canadians are concerned about the effects of NAFTA in itself or whether their opinion is part of the global “grumpy view” on trade, citing U.S. anti-free-trade sentiments.
Angus Reid said it conducted the online survey with a representative sample of 1,519 Canadian adults who are its members. The survey has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.