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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Canada is ready to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Mexico



   Canada column for Sunday, May 14/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   “Bring it on,” Canadian leaders suggest as U.S. President Donald Trump moves to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
   Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada will be “good, collaborative constructive partners who effectively stand up for the national interest.”
   It is hoped Canada will be able to “conclude negotiations quickly,” as well as meet soon with Trump “trade czar” Robert Lighthizer, she said.
   The U.S. plans to file the required 90-day notice with Congress to renegotiate the pact and start talks with Canada and Mexico later this year.
   The President has said the U.S. is at a big disadvantage with the current NAFTA deal and wants “massive” changes in areas including automobiles, dairy, lumber, pharmaceuticals and the dispute-resolution system.
   Canada and the U.S. already are working on finding ways to eliminate excessive regulations on products crossing the border between the world’s two largest trading partners.

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   Concerns over growing consumer and business debt along with skyrocketing housing prices have prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade Canada’s six largest banks.
   The change cut TD Bank’s long-term rating to Aa2, while the other banks fell to A1.
   The concerns leave consumers and banks “more vulnerable to downside risks facing the Canadian economy than in the past,” said David Beattie, Moody’s senior vice-president.
   On a positive note, the debt rating agency said the banks “maintain strong buffers in terms of capital and liquidity.”
   There is heightened scrutiny after alternative mortgage lender Home Capital obtained an emergency $2-billion line of credit when customers began withdrawing deposits from their high-interest savings accounts.

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   News in brief:
   - Pierre Beaudoin, a member of the Quebec family behind the Bombardier transportation empire, has resigned as executive chairman of the board of directors. The financially struggling Montreal-based company has come under intense criticism from shareholders over what they called an excessive compensation package for six Bombardier executives. Leadership has shifted to Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer.
   - Air Canada swill start its own loyalty rewards program in 2020 and end its association with Aeroplan. Once the switch is made, flyers can redeem the new points for Air Canada and Star Alliance flights. They are expected to be able to use up their Aeroplan points, too, up to and after June 2020.

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   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar is lower at 72.92 cents U.S. as the U.S. dollar rose to $1.371 Canadian, before exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is steady at 0.5 percent while the prime-lending rate is 2.7 percent.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index down at 15,543 points while the TSX Venture index is up at 789 points.
   The average price for gas in Canada is lower at $1.089 a liter or $4.13 (Canadian) for a U.S. gallon.
   Lotto 6/49: (May 10) 6, 7, 8, 21, 27 and 38; bonus 23. (May 6) 6, 7, 9, 11, 34 and 38; bonus 8. Lotto Max: (May 5) 11, 14, 20, 22, 26, 35 and 43; bonus 33.

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   Regional briefs:
   - Massive flooding in Quebec has rivers and lakes between Gatineau and Montreal at 50-year peaks. More than 3,000 people were forced from their homes, with hundreds more in Ontario communities along the Ottawa River. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged the government’s help with up to 90 percent of the costs of the cleanup and recovery paid by the Disaster Financial Assistance program.
   - There are new flood risks in British Columbia from rising rivers and creeks. Emergency officials are telling residents to brace for imminent flooding in Central Okanagan. There is also a longer-term threat near the shores of Okanagan Lake.
   - It was more than just “peanuts” when DHX Media of Halifax paid $345-million US to take control of Charlie Brown and Strawberry Shortcake enterprises. The children’s entertainment company already has Teletubbies, Inspector Gadget and Caillou brands. Now DHX has an 80 percent controlling interest in Peanuts, approved by creator Charles Schulz’s widow, Jean Schulz, and 100 percent of Strawberry Shortcake from Iconix Brand Group Inc.

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Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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