Reaction to USMCA deal rolls in: Not a 'great win,' but a 'great save'
Canada’s Ambassador to the United States said the renegotiation of NAFTA and concessions on dairy haven’t been a “great win” but, rather, a “great save.”
David MacNaughton made the comment Monday on CTV’s Power Play.
The ambassador wasn’t the only one to weigh in. After news broke late Sunday night that Canada had achieved an agreement in principle with the United States and Mexico – dubbed the USMCA trade deal – the story dominated headlines. With a glut of reaction pouring in, here’s what some Power Play guests had to say about the deal.
GOOD DEAL OR BAD DEAL?
“There were moments that were frustrating and difficult and I was delighted that it all came together in the last while, because I think it removes a lot of uncertainty,” MacNaughton said.
USMCA got mixed reviews as pundits and politicians grappled with the latest iteration of what was once called NAFTA. While the Liberals touted their trade negotiations as successful, others speculated about the cost they paid to draw a deal.
“The Liberals are trying to say this is a great deal. This is a deal, and probably a deal better than no deal, but it’s still not a good deal,” said Conservative trade critic Dean Allison.
NDP trade critic Tracey Ramsey agreed.
“This isn’t a great deal,” she said.
Ramsey pointed to concessions made on dairy and the unresolved existence of steel and aluminum tariffs as key causes of concern. She was also unhappy with the concessions made on pharmaceuticals.
“The cost of medication is going to go up because we gave into big pharma in the U.S. on patents,” Ramsey warned, referring to the extension given to the length of time new drugs will spend on the market before facing off with generic competitors.
The parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Andrew Leslie, painted a more positive picture of the overall deal.
“I would say this is a good deal in that it protects our interests, it sets a good foundation for future discussions,” he said.
CONCESSIONS ON DAIRY
Not everyone felt their interests were protected.
Canada made some controversial concessions on dairy, opting to offer the Americans increased access to Canadian dairy, egg and poultry markets.
One person who wasn’t pleased with the move was Albert Kamps, the vice-chairman of Alberta Milk.
“[Trudeau] has said he wanted a vibrant dairy industry, what we’re seeing is our industry keeps being pared back every time there’s another trade agreement. If you keep doing that, pretty soon you don’t have an industry,” Kamps said on Power Play.
He was also concerned about the government’s decision to get rid of Class 7 pricing on some dairy ingredients.
“This will hit our processors in a big way. If we don’t have processing, we can’t make the milk to service the markets,” Kamps said.
The government has promised it will compensate affected dairy farmers.
“They will be compensated, and our heart goes out to them. They will be compensated for the loss of market share,” Leslie said.
Leslie also warned dairy farmers that things could have been worse.
“Supply management still exists. Let’s not forget that the American executive wanted it gotten rid of in its entirety. “
UNCERTAINTY OVER ALUMINUM AND STEEL TARIFFS
Another major critique of the deal dealt with steel and aluminum tariffs.
U.S. President Donald Trump hasn’t lifted the 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel or the 10 per cent tariff on Canadian aluminum, which has stressed out stakeholders.
“We have a deal [but] steel and aluminum tariffs are still there. This is devastating to people who work across the sector and they were hoping for a lifeline in these negotiations,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey pointed out that the very auto industry which has been praising the feds for dodging an auto tariff will be heavily impacted by the steel and aluminum tariffs that remain in place.
“Cars are made from steel and aluminum, and so the ecosystems that support them that are in Southwestern Ontario and across Canada cannot thrive under these tariffs that we currently have,” she said.
Still, UNIFOR President Jerry Dias said he was happy to have avoided the tariff on autos.
“The number one export industry in the country is the auto industry, and I am absolutely thrilled that we were able to put into place a format that will lead to investment in Canada,” he said.
Meredith Lilly, who was once a trade adviser to former prime minster Stephen Harper, warned that Canada faced a real risk on autos.
“I think that it was fairly likely that the president was going to implement auto tariffs against Canada,” she said.
“What was on offer was either sign on to this new deal or experience some very serious pain, especially in Ontario. And so as a result I think we were brought to the table and we had to take a deal that otherwise we probably would not have taken.”
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