USMCA ratification delayed in Canada

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President Trump may have already celebrated the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, but the deal hasn’t yet been ratified by Canada, and it may not be for weeks.

“It is a major economic issue for the regions. We can’t just move on,” Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the Canadian Parliament’s Bloc Quebecois, tweeted Thursday. Blanchet promised “developments in the coming days” but gave no further details. Bloc Quebecois and other relatively small opposition groups have used parliamentary procedure to slow the deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau negotiated the deal with the U.S. and Mexico and is dedicated to getting it ratified. However, his Liberal Party lost its majority in the October election, obligating it to work in a coalition with other groups. That does not appear to have undermined the trade deal in Parliament, but it has made fast-tracking its ratification impossible. The USMCA cannot go into effect until all three signatories have ratified it.

Trudeau said last month that he had hoped to get it done by February. However, the deal is currently still in Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee, which has planned hearings for next week and could delay the process until as late as April.

Opposition groups in Parliament have raised questions about the deal’s labor rights language, echoing concerns that U.S. lawmakers made that delayed the deal’s passage through Congress.

Bloc Quebecois in particular has criticized the deal for not favoring Canadian aluminum in the language that covers the share of an automobile that must be made in North America to be duty-free, claiming the lack of aluminum protections would cost 60,000 jobs. “With this agreement, Ottawa offers Ontarians the protection of their steel sector against the complete abandonment of aluminum from Quebec,” the group said Wednesday.

The main opposition party, the Conservatives, has not opposed the deal but has not backed the Liberal Party to assist its passage, either.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy pointed to recent comments by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland that the current government still expected Parliament “to swiftly ratify the new NAFTA in the interest of our economy.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

The trade deal, which would replace the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, is known as the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement in Canada’s English-speaking provinces and the Accord Canada-Etats-Unis-Mexique in Quebec.

The U.S. ratified the deal in January. Mexico did last year, though its legislature still has to accept some of the additional language added to the deal just prior to the U.S.’s adoption.

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