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North American Trade: From Hope to Rift

June 1, 2018 – For a couple months, we had been led to hope that a new NAFTA deal was about to be struck and that longstanding artist mobility barriers could be lifted. With yesterday’s announcement of trade tariffs from the U.S. administration and the retaliation by the Canadian government, hopes of a free-trade agreement have quickly turned into fears of a self-destructive trade war.

Why NAFTA matters to the performing arts

Flags of Canada, the United States and MexicoBeyond the well known cultural exemption, NAFTA also has a chapter on “Temporary Entry for Business Persons”. Under chapter 16 of NAFTA, the TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Currently, artists cannot enter the United States under the TN status, because artists aren’t included in the list of eligible professions for this classification.

We’ve been working hard to change this and we already achieved a couple wins.

Last summer, CAPACOA collaborated with the Canadian Arts Coalition, the Artist Mobility Advocacy Coalition and NAPAMA to develop an exhaustive brief on Artist Mobility Between Canada and the United States. This brief recommended adding performing artists as an eligible profession for NAFTA TN nonimmigrant status, and harmonizing work regulations on both sides of the border.

The inclusion of live performing artists in the list of eligible professions in chapter 16 of NAFTA would be a game changer for Canadian touring artists. Instead of going through the slow and expensive O or P processes, performing artists could get the TN classification at a port of entry, quickly and at no cost.

This recommendation was provided to Canada’s negotiators ahead of the renegotiation of NAFTA, and our message was heard. When Foreign Affairs minister Chrystia Freeland announced Canada’s priorities for the renegotiation of NAFTA one of them was: “Easier cross-border movement of business professionals by expanding NAFTA's Chapter 16 provisions for temporary entry for business people” and “by cutting red tape and harmonizing regulations”. Our recommendation had made it on the priority list and unto to negotiation table!

For a while, things were looking good: the Canadian government was standing behind the arts sector, and the negotiations were showing signs of progress.

Until yesterday…

Why a North American trade war matters to the performing arts

Today was the deadline for agreeing on a modernized NAFTA before the U.S. mid-term elections. Instead of coming forward with a deal proposal, the U.S. administration went the opposite way: they announce heavy trade tariffs on steel and aluminum, to which the Canadian government quickly retaliated with equivalent tariffs on a number of products.

This looming trade war is the greatest threat to our integrated North American economy that we've seen in a very long time. Even if it is resolved quickly, the impact on the economy will be tangible. If it escalates, the impact will be terrible.

If a trade war escalates, the first losers will be consumers on both side of the borders because the price of several commodities will rise. And, as households’ budgets are getting tighter, discretionary expenses such as performing arts tickets become luxuries that fewer people can afford…

CAPACOA is in discussion with its counterparts north and south of the border in an attempt to coordinate a response to this dangerous situation.

 

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