Chrystia Freeland tables motion to set the stage for revised NAFTA ratification

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced a motion in the House of Commons after question period Monday that sets the stage for the introduction of legislation needed to ratify a renegotiated NAFTA agreement.

The ways and means motion is a required step on the road to ratification because it addresses some tax and financial measures that need to be taken into account with respect to the revised trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

“The introduction of this motion comes after our government secured a full lift of the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, something which is very good news for Canadians and for Americans. Importantly, we have not accepted any quotas on the export of Canadian steel and aluminum,” Freeland said outside the House.

Canada, the U.S. and Mexico signed the revised NAFTA on Nov. 30 after a bruising period of negotiation. but significant moves toward ratification in Canada have been delayed by American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Last June, the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped tariffs of 25 per cent on imports of steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, citing national security interests. Canada, Mexico and a number of other countries were affected.

Canada retaliated with its own tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, but also imposed a 10 per cent tariff on multiple consumer items, targeting U.S. politicians in states where those products are made in an effort to pressure the Trump administration to lift the tariffs.

Those tariffs were lifted last week, but the U.S. reserved the right to slap them back on — specifically “in the event that imports of aluminum or steel products surge meaningfully beyond historic volumes of trade over a period of time.”

Freeland was recently asked to define a “surge” and couldn’t. CBC News has reported there’s a conversation still underway with the U.S. to flesh out how this language should be interpreted.

“Now that they have been lifted, our government intends to move ahead with ratification of the new NAFTA. Insofar as possible, we intend to move in tandem with the United States,” Freeland added.

A tight timeline

In the meantime, it appears the Liberal government is pursuing ratification before the October federal election.

Canada tabled the text of the revised NAFTA agreement in the House of Commons on Dec.12. Parliamentary convention requires 21 full sitting days of the House before implementation legislation can be introduced. So the Canadian government could introduce a new NAFTA bill at any time now.

While the federal cabinet ratifies trade treaties, it does so only after implementation legislation has passed in Parliament, readying Canadian laws and regulations to comply with the new terms.

Canada has only a short time window to pass its implementation bill into law before Parliament rises for the summer, and before the federal election campaign. Similar implementation bills for other trade treaties have taken longer than the remaining time left between now and the end of June.

Freeland said that despite the short time frame, she was confident all MPs in the House understand the importance of working to ratify the deal. But she acknowledged the timetable for ratification remained outside her hands.

“Of course the entry into force of this agreement does not depend solely on Canada. The new agreement can only enter info force upon ratification in each of the three NAFTA countries,” she said.

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