USMCA will be ratified in U.S. by July, ambassador MacNaughton predicts
Published Saturday, May 18, 2019 7:00AM EDT
Canadian Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton said he’s “ecstatic” that the White House lifted its tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, and he expects the new NAFTA agreement to become official this summer.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period, MacNaughton said he expects U.S. Congress to pass the renegotiated USMCA deal (or CUSMA, as it’s known in Canada) by the end of July, when the summer sessions wraps up.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on the Hill talking to people, including a lot of Democrats, and I think this tariff resolution is going to give the impetus to get this deal done. And I am extraordinarily pleased that this has happened,” MacNaughton said in an interview that airs Sunday.
The ambassador was one of several key members of what he called “team Canada”: a group of top cabinet ministers, public servants and industry stakeholders lobbying U.S. officials to eliminate the tariffs, which were put in place one year ago during NAFTA talks.
“We were just determined and persistent and unwavering and … as in the NAFTA negotiations, it was team Canada at its best.”
U.S. President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 on a platform that included killing NAFTA and replacing it with a “better” deal for Americans. But Canada’s NAFTA negotiators, including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said they refused to sign any deal that wasn’t mutually beneficial.
Ottawa responded to the U.S. tariffs last May with $16.6-billion worth of countermeasures against a long list of American imports, including products such as bourbon, boats and pens.
The year-long stalemate wasn’t broken on a single issue, MacNaughton said. Rather, he said that he and other Canadians repeatedly told U.S. officials that Parliament simply could not pass the new deal with trade barriers in place.
“And I don’t think they believed me, but I honestly believed it. I didn’t think the government or Parliament would pass the legislation as long as this was around.”
MacNaughton also cited key support from influential Republicans, including Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who opposed the tariffs.
“We had people on both sides of the floor saying, ‘You need to get these things out of the way.’”
The Trump administration’s decision to drop the tariffs marks a significant win for the federal government. On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the news a "good day for steel and aluminum workers right across the country."
Hours after the announcement, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence said he was coming to Ottawa on May 30 to sit down with Trudeau to move forward with the USMCA deal “as swiftly as possible.” Pence described the deal as “a WIN for all 3 nations!”
Sources have told CTV News that the U.S. and Mexico have also reached a similar agreement.
From MacNaughton’s point of view, the White House’s decision to scrap the tariffs proves that persistence pays off.
“We’re only 35 million people. But when we work together, there’s almost nothing we can’t do,” he said. “I say to the Americans: we’re really nice people, we’re really fair people and we’re really reasonable people. But we’re also hockey players, so.”
Asked if he’s concerned that Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives could change the deal if they win the election this fall, MacNaughton refused to comment.
“As a non-partisan public servant, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on Canadian politics.”
As for when Canada will approve the deal, MacNaughton said he expects the federal Liberal government to introduce its own legislation “very, very shortly.”