The North American Free Trade Agreement could be updated to “better reflect today’s realities” but “open markets remain the surest path to greater prosperity,” the Bank of Nova Scotia’s chief executive told shareholders on Tuesday.

Brian Porter, president and chief executive officer of Scotiabank, said while some are questioning whether NAFTA is appropriately serving the interests of American workers, the trade agreement offers clear economic advantages to all three of its members.  

“We agree that it would be timely to update some provisions. This would ensure that the agreement better reflects today’s realities,” Porter said, according to prepared remarks to be delivered at the bank’s annual meeting of shareholders in Toronto. “For example, provisions governing services, e-commerce, and intellectual-property protections could all be added to the agreement.”

Still, Scotiabank “firmly supports the free movement of goods and services throughout North America.”

Porter’s comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump took the first steps towards redrawing NAFTA with an executive order directing his government to negotiate changes on Friday, and by sending a draft letter to Congress outlining the substantial changes his administration is seeking.

During a meeting at the White House with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February, Trump said publicly that he would “tweak” the trade relationship with Canada, but focus on the “unfair” U.S. commercial relationship with Mexico.

Scotiabank has the largest international presence among the big Canadian banks, with a footprint in countries such as Mexico, Chile and Peru.

Scotiabank’s fiscal first-quarter net income of $2 billion, up 11 per cent year-over-year, was driven in part by record results in international banking which saw earnings of more than $500 million.

Porter urged Scotiabank’s stakeholders on Tuesday to think of the longer term prospects of the bank’s major markets and “not to become overly concerned with the headlines of the day.”  

“In the case of Mexico, continued policy reforms and strong macroeconomic management
have positioned the country for growth,” Porter said in his remarks.

“In addition, Mexico’s relatively young and expanding middle class continue to make it an attractive place to invest. As a result, we remain confident about Mexico’s economic prospects in the near term, and especially over the longer term.”

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