Liberal government tables legislation to implement new NAFTA as Trump signs U.S. bill

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled legislation Wednesday to implement the new NAFTA deal in Canada, on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump formally ratified the deal south of the border.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland leaves the podium after speaking with reporters about the USMCA trade agreement in Ottawa. The Liberal government tabled the implementation legislation for the agreement Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled legislation Wednesday to implement the new NAFTA trade deal in Canada, on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a major rewrite of the rules of trade with Canada and Mexico.

The Canadian bill, C-4, will amend dozens of laws — everything from the Broadcasting Act to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act — to bring them in line with the text of the new trilateral trade deal. Mexico already has ratified the agreement.

According to the deal's text, the new Canada-U.S.-Mexican Trade Agreement will come into force "on the first day of the third month following the ratification of the last of the three parties." That countdown will begin when Canada has finished its parliamentary process and cabinet has given its final approvals.

Before the legislation was tabled, MPs voted on a ways and means motion on the bill. That motion — a parliamentary step required for bills dealing with tax matters — was supported by the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green caucuses and Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The Bloc Québécois caucus was the only one to vote against the motion. The Bloc has cited concerns with the bill's effect on the aluminum sector.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged MPs to swiftly adopt the implementation bill.

"I look forward to getting it through responsibly and rapidly because it's so important for Canada," he said. "NAFTA means good jobs, stability, opportunities for Canadians, solidity in our relationship with our most important trading partner.

"There will be a certain amount of pressure on Canada from both Mexico and the U.S., who want to see this move forward, but we have a process for ratification."

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet has said he fears provisions of the bill do not adequately protect Quebec's aluminum sector from foreign imports.

While the deal demands 70 per cent of all aluminum parts used in the auto manufacturing process originate in a NAFTA country, Blanchet said the rule does not apply to aluminum sheets.

He said there may be a way to make a fix without re-opening a deal, which has already been approved by the U.S. and Mexico.

"There are mechanisms within the treaty that allow the government to fix the situation which allows the Parliament to adopt it as it is written presently," he told reporters. Blanchet refused to describe his proposed fix, saying he is in talks with Trudeau directly about an aluminum amendment.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the initial version of the re-worked NAFTA in late 2018, but some Democrats in Congress balked at the deal and its provisions on intellectual property rights and labour standards. A revised version of NAFTA 2.0 was accepted by the three countries after Democrats secured new language in the deal on labour rules, particularly as they pertain to Mexico.

U.S. legislation implementing the trade agreement received overwhelming, bipartisan support in both House of Representatives and the Senate. Trump signed the implementation deal Wednesday at a White House ceremony.

Trump, a vocal critic of the original NAFTA — he called it a "nightmare" Wednesday — acknowledged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and thanked him for the "close partnership and co-operation."

"Canada's opening up," he said, a reference to the changes Canada made to some its agricultural sectors, notably reforms to the supply-managed dairy sector to allow more U.S. supply.

"You guys did a good job on us before this deal, I'll tell you. Canada was very tough. But they're good. They're our friends, so we appreciate it," Trump said.

Like any other bill in Parliament, the Canadian implementation legislation must first pass the second reading phase and be studied and passed at committee before it can be adopted by a majority of MPs in the Commons at third reading.

Then, the bill will be sent to the Senate for further study and debate.

So the precise timeline for the passage of the implementing legislation isn't clear. The Senate hasn't returned yet for this winter session of Parliament and none of the new committees — including the banking committee that is expected to study the legislation — have been assembled.


John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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