The House

Congress in no rush to pass new NAFTA, says Congressman

This week on The House, U.S. Democrat Dan Kildee talks about what his party wants to see before they'll pass the new NAFTA. Mexico's ambassador to Canada talks about Trump's new tariffs, and two Arctic experts speak to us about the quest to plant our flag at the North Pole.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her Democrats won't pass the new NAFTA until their concerns are addressed. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

By Chris Hall, host of The House

The meetings in Ottawa this week between U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau produced a lot of warm words about friendship, shared history, leadership and the importance of the Canada-U.S. trading relationship.

It also injected a note of cold reality: this Liberal prime minister is prepared to go a long way to make his relationship with the Trump administration work, even if means fraying ties with Democrats.

With Pence at his side at their joint media availability, Trudeau first took a shot at Conservative opponents in Canada who questioned the advisability of insisting that the new North American trade deal include chapters to promote labour rights, the environment and gender equity.

From there, the prime minister offered some unsolicited advice to progressive politicians in the U.S., taking aim at congressional Democrats who are refusing to ratify the deal without assurances that those labour standards will be enforced in Mexico.

"They are significant things that we look to the U.S. Democrats to understand are significant improvements and are issues, like Canadian Liberals, they care deeply about," Trudeau said.

"So we are confident that the work being done on ratification is possible because we made sure from multiple angles that this was a better deal for Americans, Canadians and Mexicans."

With the tariffs on steel and aluminum removed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tabled legislation to ratify the new NAFTA here in Canada. In the U.S, President Trump is issuing an Administrative Action that would see the deal submitted to Congress in 30 days, despite Democrats wanting new enforcement mechanisms for environmental and labour standards to be included. We speak with Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, about Trump's move. 8:40

Translation: if Liberals are happy with this deal, Democrats should be, too.

This matters, because the Democrats now control the House of Representatives. And at least one leading Democrat on the House ways and means committee that will review the deal is unimpressed by Trudeau's pitch.

"Well, you know, we're capable certainly of judging on our own what the implications of these agreements might be," said Michigan Representative Dan Kildee told me on The House.

"Obviously there's interest in having an improved agreement among the three countries. But we shouldn't settle for something that's marginally better when we can make it a very good and sustainable agreement with far more certainty. And that's all we're trying to do."

You can read more of Chris Hall's analysis at

Mexico being blamed for Central America's problems, ambassador says

Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, move on a road in Tapachula, Chiapas State, Mexico, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Isabel Mateos/The Associated Press)

Mexico's ambassador to Canada says the U.S. is punishing his country for problems in Central America. 

On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he'd impose five per cent tariffs on Mexico's imports until that country does more to stop migrants trying to cross the U.S. border.

Trump said the tariffs will rise five percentage points each month and could be at 25 per cent by October.

Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho told The House it's an issue that concerns Mexico as well. 

President Trump's withdrawal of tariffs with Mexico and Canada may be short-lived for their southern neighbour. The President is now threatening to reimpose tariffs if the Mexicans don't act to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. What will this new threat mean for relations between those two countries, and to the ratification of the USMCA? We ask Mexico's Ambassador to Canada. 7:03

"We [are] the largest migration corridor in the world. So yes, it is true that migration coming through our southern border has increased. We are doing our best," he said. 

More than 130,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in a five month period at the end of last year, according to the U.S. border agency.

Camacho added that human rights need to be the priority, and on that front "Mexico is doing the heavy lifting." 

The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has asked the U.S. to collaborate with them to overcome the challenges posed by the migrants, but so far there hasn't been any cooperation. 

And considering a new NAFTA deal was just reached after more than a year of tense negotiations, Camacho says the move from the U.S. is in poor taste.

Trump's announcement comes as governments from all three countries are working toward ratifying the deal.

"It doesn't solve the problem and it may create other problems," Camacho said.  

A Mexican delegation is in Washington to learn more about the mechanics of the tariffs from U.S. officials. Camacho says they're trying to better understand Trump's justification. 

"We've being doing our share regarding this migration challenge. We want the U.S. to be more involved with us in helping Central America." 

Russia and China act differently in the Arctic than in the rest of the world, experts say

Russia, Denmark and Canada are all trying to claim the North Pole. (Dan Weaver)

Canada is dealing with "two Russias" and "two Chinas" when it comes to the Arctic, according to two researchers. 

Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, says those two nations have very different approaches in the North, versus their abrasive approach to other multilateral world issues. 

Russia, Denmark and Canada are currently jostling to see who gets sovereignty over the North Pole — a decision that will eventually be made by the United Nations. 

While jurisdiction is still in question, Charron says Russia has been very cooperative in working with other nations in the Arctic. 

"We have the Russia that we're very concerned about in Ukraine, we're very concerned about their activities in Syria, poisonings in the United Kingdom. There is a lot to be worried about," she said. 

"But on the other hand when it comes to the Arctic, Russia is going to be essential for search and rescue."

Jennifer Spence, a fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation's Arctic Program, agreed.

Who gets to plant their flag at the top of the world? Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba, and Jennifer Spence, a professor of northern studies at Carleton University, talk about what's at stake and Canada's claims to the North Pole. 11:41

She added that China is also looking for partners as it watches the dispute from afar. 

"You'll see you see that China's working very heavily with Russia because they have found that they have a very productive partnership that meets both their goals."

Spence added that kind of cooperation between China and Canada likely isn't possible.

"I'm not sure that will happen as easily in Canada especially with a partner with a close relationship with the United States who has its own concerns with China."

Charron said the same view could be applied to China, as to Russia. 

"We have two Chinas. We have the China that can be cooperative in the Arctic [and] we have this other China whom we're very concerned about the advantage in the Arctic region."

However, no decisions on who claims the top of the world will be made in the immediate future. 

Spence said it's likely going to be 30 to 50 years before any serious conclusion is reached — which could benefit China's political cycle. 

"China has a 100 year plan. We have a four year plan, maybe."


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