PM Trudeau introduces new NAFTA implementation bill
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2019 12:57PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 31, 2019 7:03PM EDT
OTTAWA – Almost eight months to the day after the deal was reached, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tabled legislation to implement the renegotiated NAFTA deal. Now that the bill has been introduced, the trilateral trade deal will begin its journey through Parliament, on a limited timeline.
The bill—C-100 or the "Canada United States Mexico Agreement Implementation Act"—was tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.
"Today is a big day for Canada," Trudeau said after tabling the more-than-150-page bill, which includes the legislative amendments needed to apply the new trade rules.
"Modernizing NAFTA was no small task, our partners are tough negotiators and tensions sometimes ran high," Trudeau said, launching into a retrospective recounting of the renegotiating process that began nearly two years ago. Trudeau also called on his House colleagues to support the bill's passage.
His speech was followed by remarks from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Scheer used his speaking slot to critique the Liberal's handling of the renegotiations, highlighting the areas where Canada made concessions, and sectors that have felt the impacts of the economic uncertainty the trade talks and tariffs caused.
"There is quite literally nothing about this deal that is better than the one before it," Scheer said.
"But this is a deal that we are stuck with," Scheer said, adding that if his party forms government after the fall election, he’d work on mitigating the damage he believes this deal will cause.
Singh questioned why the government would rush ahead with ratification, if there is a chance that the Democrats could push for changes to the deal in favour of workers.
"It makes no sense," Singh said. "Don't rush this bill ahead."
According to the text of the legislation tabled, the bill is set to allow the federal cabinet to set regulations after the bill passes Parliament, should there be belated changes made during the ratification processes in the U.S. and Mexico.
"The Governor in Council may make any regulations the Governor in Council considers necessary for the purpose of implementing," reads the text of the motion in two places, related to intellectual property and pharmaceutical protections, as well as fertilizers.
This would provide some flexibility even if Parliament passes the ratification bill before it's done in the other two countries.
The legislation also sets out rules for interpretation of the agreement, as well as for "payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional and administrative aspects" of the deal. Bill C-100 also spells out when certain aspects of the agreement come into effect, the majority of which being when the deal comes into force.
On Tuesday, Trudeau vowed to keep pace with the American administration when it comes to ratification of the renegotiated agreement, known as USMCA, or CUSMA depending on what side of the border you are on.
"We recognize that the American situation is slightly more complicated than us. We have, as we saw yesterday, a tremendous amount of support for the ratification of NAFTA because it is a good deal for Canadians," Trudeau told reporters Wednesday morning.
Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt said Wednesday that just because her caucus will support passing the implementation legislation, they will use every opportunity to use the debate to raise their lingering concerns about the agreement.
"While we don’t agree that this is a fantastic deal, the reality is that it is a deal," Raitt said. "They have a lot of work to do in the next three weeks… obstruction is not on our agenda."
With just three scheduled sitting weeks left in the House, time is limited to usher through the major piece of legislation unless the Liberals decide to extend the sitting. The Senate is already scheduled to sit a week later, but it will already have a thick roster of government legislation to get through, this bill aside. On Tuesday night the Liberals kicked off weeks of midnight sittings, giving MPs more time to deliberate government business between now and the end of the session.
In order for the deal — which was reached in late September and signed in November after nearly 14 months of negotiations — to come into force, it needs to be ratified by all three countries in their respective legislative bodies.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Ottawa to discuss ratification on Thursday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland discussed the ratification process and the bill with her cabinet colleagues on Tuesday, accompanied by Canada's Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton.
He remains optimistic that despite ongoing tensions between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, that it will pass the renegotiated deal by the end of July, when the summer session wraps up.
In an interview on CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday he said that Canada is proceeding on the assumption that the text of the deal will not be re-opened.
"I think once you open it up… it's like Pandora’s box. So there may be some tweaks in terms of the wording, but I think to try to open up the agreement again would be challenging," MacNaughton said.