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With three days to go until signing ceremony, USMCA text still not final

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Three days away from the target date for all three countries to officially sign the revised North American trade agreement, Canada and the United States are still haggling over what the deal actually says.

An annex on duties Canada imposes on U.S. dairy, egg and poultry products that was posted online by the Trump administration contained language that differed from what Canadian negotiators believed they’d agreed to at the table. Confronted with the discrepancy, the American side stuck to its guns.

The clock is ticking down fast: Nov. 30, the intended signing date, is this Friday.

“Discussion around and work on the signing is ongoing,” wrote Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s spokesperson Adam Austen today, promising more details when things are finalized.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to be in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the meeting of G20 leaders scheduled for this weekend.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser, told a press briefing at the White House today that U.S. and Canadian “representatives” would sign the deal in Argentina.

But more details have not been forthcoming, particularly from the Canadian side. Previous major trade agreement signings were confirmed earlier than this.

It’s not clear who will sign this deal on Canada’s behalf. Under current circumstances — with U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs not yet lifted on Canada and Mexico as anticipated — Trudeau may not be inclined to give Trump a celebratory photo opportunity.

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, quipped to Politico earlier this fall that perhaps a low-ranking Canadian official with a bag over his head would be best person to pick for the official signing.

Today’s White House press briefing also listed five world leaders Trump would meet with one-on-one during the G20. Trudeau was not among them.

The race to reach an agreement earlier this fall was premised on two things happening.

First, in order for outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña ​Nieto to participate in the official signing ceremony, it would have to happen before his successor is sworn in on Dec.1.

Second, the Americans had to post the text of the agreement online 60 days before signing it, if the Trump administration wanted the trade deal to be eligible for “fast-track” passage through Congress. Fast-track passage allows no amendments during committee review stages and permits only a final up-or-down vote.

The agreement was announced on the evening of Sept. 30 — just in time — after a hectic final weekend of talks between the Canadians and the Americans.

Text discrepancy

The first step in any signing ceremony is for the parties to agree on what they’re signing.

While an English version of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement was published by the United States Trade Representative’s office by Oct. 1, as required by Congressional fast-track rules, Canada has never published its own version of the text.

The text also hasn’t been officially translated to allow francophones to read the details in their first language.

The only link to the full text available on the Global Affairs Canada website links to the USTR’s website.

Although the website refers to the ‘USMCA’, it’s not clear that Canada is completely on board with renaming NAFTA; Trump appeared to unilaterally come up with with title during a media appearance earlier this year. Freeland, for example, said last week that in Canadian documents it’s called “CUSMA”, putting Canada first, so she prefers to call it “the new NAFTA.”

Once the text is signed by the three leaders, or their designated ministers or officials, it becomes an official commitment of their governments. A detailed legal scrub has been underway for the past two months to make sure the text being signed reflects exactly what Canadian negotiators agreed to at the table.

And not everything the USTR posted online was what Canada expected.

In particular, Annex 3-B (Agricultural Trade between Canada and the U.S.) — which set out notification requirements for Canada should it want to change tariffs for its supply-managed dairy, poultry or egg industries — did not reflect what negotiators believed they had approved during the talks.

Sovereignty concern

According to the American version, the Canadian government would need to notify the U.S. whenever it makes any changes to customs duties on these products before those changes are finalized, allowing American officials to review the decision and request more information.

While there have always been ways for the U.S. to respond to Canadian duties it finds unjust (by launching arbitration cases before the World Trade Organization, for example), the American USMCA text raises a sovereignty concern. It appears to interfere with Canada’s ability to make its own tariff decisions and administer its system as it sees fit.

The affected industries were told not to worry — that the issue would be resolved before the final signing.

CBC News has been told that, as of Tuesday, Canada and the U.S. have not settled on mutually agreeable language.

Officially, all the government will say is that the legal scrub continues. And it’s not clear what might happen if the two sides cannot bridge their differences by Friday.

A signing ceremony does not signify that the deal is ratified and ready to take effect. The U.S. Congress has a lengthy ratification process, for example. The outcome of that process for USMCA is far from certain, particularly given the election of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Congressional leaders recently confirmed that the existing U.S. Congress will not vote on the USMCA during its “lame duck” session between now and the end of the year.

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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