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Feb 15, 2018

NAFTA's end would be 'lose-lose-lose' for auto industry: Magna CEO

North American auto parts maker Magna sees growth opportunities in China, Europe

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Auto parts-maker Magna International’s CEO says there’s too much at stake in the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations for the deal to get “messed up.”

“If [NAFTA] gets messed up, I think it’s going to be lose-lose-lose, in a big way for the automotive industry because right now, if you look at NAFTA, we’re a trading region and we need to be competitive and we export a lot of vehicles,” Magna CEO Don Walker told BNN in an interview on Thursday.

“I hope that the people negotiating it will make the right decisions, but if we get it wrong it could be very bad for Canada and it could be very bad, I think, for the whole trading region. I’m pretty confident that the people negotiating understand the negative implications, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Walker said the company has no current plans to close plants in Canada if NAFTA gets ripped up, but did say that the end of the 24-year-old agreement would affect the company’s Canadian operations ability to win new business.

“If you look at the overhead costs that a country puts in place, or NAFTA might impose on a plant – when we quote – we have to take those costs into account,” Walker said.

“It’s just going to make it more difficult for the people here and the plants here to be competitive. So, we’ll have to see what happens with NAFTA and then we’ll see … we’ll tend to win future business where we can control our costs the best.”



As for the current business environment for parts-makers in Canada, Walker said that the risks associated with the potential collapse of NAFTA rare making an already-difficult environment even less hospitable.

Walker cited Canada’s proposed carbon tax, the high price of electricity in Ontario as well as Ontario’s new labour legislation as hurdles “less business-friendly” factors facing Magna’s Canadian operations.  Currently about 21,000 of Magna’s 168,000 workers are located in Canada.

“My worry is: For companies to do well, they have to be competitive internally and they have to work in an environment that allows us to be competitive. If the environment drives our costs up too much, then you can’t win business and you naturally move your footprint.”