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Three ways the new NAFTA deal kept changing after it was announced

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Turns out the negotiations to revise the North American trade agreement didn’t end when the agreement was announced Oct.1.

The 60-day period leading up to its formal signature in Buenos Aires on Friday included an additional two months of haggling over specific parts of the deal.

Several significant changes were made over the last two months during a process officials call a “legal scrub” — a detailed line-by-line review meant to catch technical errors and typos, to ensure the trade agreement could be implemented the way its negotiators intended.

Here are three ways the deal kept changing after its negotiating deadline.

Dairy pricing transparency

Earlier this week, CBC News reported that Canada’s national dairy organizations, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Dairy Processors Association of Canada, wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him not to sign the new NAFTA.

They saw some sleight-of-hand on the Americans’ part. They were already facing major concessions in the agreement announced two months ago: new guaranteed market access for American farmers (3.6 per cent of the market, the government says, although the dairy sector says it’s more like 3.9), a limit on how much Canada can export to other countries and an end to Canada’s special pricing system to keep dairy ingredients competitive (known as class 6 or class 7 in the industry).

When the dairy groups combed through the text posted on the United States Trade Representative’s website, they also found some onerous new disclosure and reporting requirements.

Canadian government negotiators told the groups over several meetings that this was not approved at the table and the language would be removed during the legal scrub. It wasn’t — or not completely, anyway.

The Canadian dairy industry is now required to publish sensitive pricing information and notify the U.S. before it makes changes to its milk classification system. That likely would include any creative replacement it might be contemplating for its soon-to-be dismantled ingredient pricing strategy. This oversight requirement imposed by Uncle Sam was a challenge to Canadian sovereignty, they argued: domestic dairy pricing isn’t the Americans’ business, and Canadians should be able to run their industry as they see fit.

It’s evident from the new text posted Friday that detailed conversations between the governments happened regarding this language. A government official said Friday that some of the text that would have required the disclosure of competitive information was removed from the final deal. But while that portion of the deal was revised, the oversight requirements didn’t completely go away.

“This should not be understated, and will have a lasting effect on our domestic dairy sector,” said Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, in a Friday media release.

“The agriculture chapter fails to address our concerns,” Mathieu Frigon, who heads the processors’ association, told CBC News, calling the changes “additional concessions” that give the U.S. a say in how his industry works.

Automotive side letter beefed up

Monday’s announcement of the closure of General Motors plants — in Oshawa, four American locations and elsewhere around the world — focused Canadian minds on the precariousness of Ontario’s automotive sector.

In recent days, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration have ratcheted up their rhetorical threats to impose tariffs of up to 25 per cent on imported vehicles and automotive parts. Given that it was not exempt from “national security” tariffs on its steel and aluminum exports, Canada needed what Mexican officials first called “insurance”: a negotiated deal to keep Canada out from any future protectionist car tariff announcements.

The text posted by the Americans on Oct.1 included a side letter which said Canada had agreed to a quota system: if it didn’t export more than the specified threshold, it wouldn’t face the tariffs.

That letter was revised substantially during the legal scrub.

A paragraph describing how the thresholds could be modified by the parties has been removed. And the new side letter — signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland after the main ceremony Friday — is about twice as long. Now it’s full of new details that appear designed to give Canada control over monitoring and otherwise sorting out which products are eligible for exclusion from hypothetical tariffs.

There are now specific commitments in the deal requiring the Canadian government to consult with the Canadian automotive industry as part of this process.

And Canada’s “insurance” now appears to be more robust than it was in the first draft. That could indicate that what was once thought to be an empty threat on the part of the White House (remember talk of “Carmageddon?”) is turning into a plausible source of worry for Canada.

No discrimination, except …

Canadian officials like to focus on their “progressive” trade agenda, one they say combines economic objectives with the promotion of human rights and environmental protection.

The new labour chapter includes language on eliminating discrimination in the workplace, supporting women’s equality and protecting workers from harassment and discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity and caregiving responsibilities.

That raised concerns among a group of 40 Republican lawmakers, who demanded that this language be removed as a condition of their support for its ratification. That support, by the way, is far from assured in the U.S. Congress, especially since the election last month of a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

“A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy,” they wrote, arguing this deal would force Congress to make changes it has so far explicitly refused to accept.

The Canadians vowed to fight to keep this language in the deal. And they did — it’s still there. But something new has been added: a footnote saying that existing American policies are “sufficient to fulfil the obligations set forth in this Article” and “no additional action is required” on the part of the U.S. — including changes to the American Civil Rights Act — to be in compliance.

This doesn’t translate into any meaningful change for Canadians. It may disappoint some Americans, who may have supported including strong anti-discrimination language in the final deal.

But there’s a bigger take away from this change: the campaign for votes in Congress has already started, and it’s going to be a very intense fight. Votes are going to be won and lost on a lot of fronts — even the ones that might seem like mere footnotes to some.

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Real Estate

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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Real Estate

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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