Trump 'messed up the clock' on USMCA, current form 'dead': former U.S. ambassador
Published Sunday, May 5, 2019 7:00AM EDT
OTTAWA – U.S. President Donald Trump has "messed up the clock" on getting the renegotiated NAFTA deal ratified, and it may now die in its current form, says former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman.
In an interview on CTV's Question Period, Heyman said that the deal in its current form is dead.
After nearly 14 months of negotiations, the trilateral trade pact was reached last fall, and signed a short while later. It is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA in America, and the Canada-United States-Mexico-Agreement, or CUSMA, here.
The deal has been heralded as a win by all three countries although concessions were made, including on access to Canada's supply-managed sectors. Since the signing, all attention has been focused on ratification given that the existing NAFTA will remain in place until its revamped version is fully ratified.
As things stand, time is diminishing on that possibility given the amount of movement that would have to happen across North America over the next six weeks. That’s when Parliament rises for the last time before the October election will be called.
Among the obstacles yet to overcome: In the U.S. Democrats have said that the deal without changes won’t have their vote, nor will they allow a vote in Congress until Mexico changes its labour laws. In addition to these sticking points, Canada will not sign the deal so long as the U.S.-imposed steel and aluminum tariffs are in place.
"Let me be really clear that the USTR [United States Trade Representative] and Donald Trump mishandled this from day one. Had they just quickly passed a deal in 2017, signed an agreement between the three countries… in early 2018, he had the Congress, he had the Senate, he had the Mexican government in place, and there were no elections coming up here," Heyman said.
"He could have passed it, scored a victory, and it's done. They messed up the clock. Second, they did not collaborate or communicate with unions, nor did they work with the Democrats. So now they find themselves in a position where the Democrats, and the unions in the United States have a different perspective," he said.
Heyman said that Republicans have been pushing Trump to drop the tariffs, which were imposed by the U.S. last spring in the midst of NAFTA talks, citing national security concerns as their justification.
Canada responded with its own dollar-for-dollar countermeasures on American steel, aluminum, and other goods. Canadian officials have already said these retaliatory measures would be lifted the minute the Americans dropped their tariffs, though the governing Liberals have been criticized by the opposition for not resolving the damaging trade action before inking the deal.
"I think he's in a really bad place on this deal," Heyman said of Trump.
Heyman, who was joined by his wife Vicki on Sunday’s episode of CTV’s Question Period, also spoke at length about the pair’s newly-published book "The Art of Diplomacy." The book details their time in Ottawa, which included being “iced out” as then- U.S. president Barack Obama's representative in Canada, by the then-Stephen Harper government over the Keystone XL pipeline battle, and more.