What’s in a name? Canada goes with CUSMA for new trade deal
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, November 30, 2018 12:23PM EST
So, USMCA is replacing NAFTA.
Hold that, it’s CUSMA in Canada. It may not sound pretty, but the Canadian version of the new trade name’s acronym at least has the ability to be spoken as a word. There’s no such shortcut for the U.S. choice for the new trade deal’s handle.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump and Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto signed the new trade deal Friday, with the Government of Canada issuing a press release calling it the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
When Ottawa announced an agreement in principle had been reached in October, it referred to it as the the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). That’s what the deal will be called south of the border.
But somewhere along the line, Canada decided to put its own name on the deal.
“It's a rather mild but noticeable response to Trump's self-glorifying acronym with the U.S. first,” said Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.
“I suppose the good thing about our version is that it can be pronounced, which may mean that it will prevail over the tongue-tying American variant. It's a childish game we play with a childish president - the kind of thing he can understand. Perhaps there'll be a tweet about it.”
Presumably, Ottawa is putting Canada first, but there has been no official acknowledgment of that. The negotiation process has been a contentious one, with Canada pushing back against tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed by the U.S., along with squabbles over the rules of origin for auto parts, dairy market access, dispute settlement, and cultural exemptions for Canada.
Trump repeatedly tweeted dire warnings to Canada that expressed his displeasure with its trade team.
In one such swipe in September he said of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland: “We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada — we don’t like their representative very much.”
Sui Sui, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, says Canada’s renaming of the deal is significant. She said it may signal Canada’s unhappiness with Trump’s tactics and it’s definitely symbolic of two national governments going in vastly different directions when it comes to major issues, including international relations, immigration, environmental issues and labour protections.
“The dominant player here is still the U.S.; Canada can call the deal what it wants,” she said. Changing the trade deal’s name is “sending a message and I’m glad our government is doing that. What will the U.S. think of it is yet to be seen.”
Beyond the name, Sui says Canada must focus on diversifying its trade market and improving innovation and productivity to reduce its reliance on the U.S. as an export destination.
“No one who negotiates with the U.S. is happy… Negotiating with the U.S. has not been fun. There has been accumulating emotion here, so I understand the reaction.”
In Mexico, the deal will be referred to as TMEC for Tratado entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá and in French it’s AEUMC for Accord États-Unis-Mexique-Canada.
The deal governing one of the world’s largest free trade zones covers more than $1.1 trillion in trade between the three countries. NAFTA was signed in 1994 and since 1993, total merchandise trade between Canada and the U.S. has more than doubled and has grown more than nine-fold between Canada and Mexico.
Canada’s new trade name does have some competition.
Google CUSMA and you will find the Collins Spanish-English dictionary says a cusma is a word in Peru for a sleeveless tunic. It’s also a village and river in Romania, according to Wikipedia. Go to cusma.org and you’ll find it’s the acronym for a membership organization for software users based in France.
Cusma.com leads to beautiful portraits and surf shots from a Mexican company selling beach wear.
For the record, cusma.ca leads to a dead end: “Hmm. We’re having trouble finding that site.”
The CUSMA/USMCA deal (now there’s a mouthful) must be ratified by the legislatures in all three countries before taking effect.
I just read that each country will be putting their own country first in the name. So, unlike NAFTA, it will be a different acronym for each country. In Canada, we will refer to it as CUSMA. So stupid! NAFTA works so much better.— Ty Rogers (@TYR0GERS) November 30, 2018
Seriously usmca ?! That’s unpronounceable #cusma sounds better— Cavalleri Richard (@rcavalleri67) November 30, 2018
So America is calling it USCMA but Canada is calling is CUSMA. What a mess— Joshua (@xBlack_white_x) November 30, 2018