The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed on Oct. 1, almost two years after Prime Minister Trudeau said he was “more than happy” to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with incoming President Donald Trump in order to strengthen and improve the agreement. Unfortunately, that pledge, like all the Liberal Prime Minister’s promises, fell far short of the mark. Now, more than a month after the signing, it is clear that there is virtually nothing in the USMCA that puts Canada in a better position and as a result, according to an Angus Reid Institute Survey, barely a third of Canadians are pleased with the new trade deal.
In a recent editorial, former Justice Minister and colleague, the Honourable Peter MacKay, highlighted the tireless support former Conservative Interim Leader, Rona Ambrose, and former Conservative Industry Minister, James Moore, gave the Liberal government during their pursuit of this deal. He contrasted their backing to the fierce opposition former Prime Minister Mulroney encountered from the Liberals when his Conservative government proposed and negotiated NAFTA. Mr. MacKay also commended Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for remaining measured in his comments and criticism during the prolonged negotiations. Mr. Scheer rose above the partisan politics as he did not want to jeopardize, in any way, Canadians getting the favourable deal they deserved. However, as we have learned, this is not the “improved” trade agreement we were hoping for and thus, we are now calling a spade a spade. Justin Trudeau and his government failed to provide the necessary leadership to stop the United States from taking advantage of Canada.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, backed down on automotives, giving Donald Trump exactly what he wanted: limits on how many cars Canada can export to the United States. Dairy farmers felt betrayed by the hit the supply management system is taking under USMCA, especially on the heels of the concessions made in the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). In an Oct. 23 Op-ed , the National Farmers Union said USMCA “would give US-grown wheat a free ride on Canada’s international reputation and ultimately threaten the quality control system that allows prairie farmers to obtain premium prices for our wheat.” Trudeau also backed down on pharmaceuticals, giving Donald Trump exactly what he wanted: higher prices and bigger profits for American drug companies.
For all these concessions, Justin Trudeau was unable to win anything significant in return. Buy American provisions remain which effectively shut out Canadian companies from bidding on American government contracts. Tariffs remain on steel, aluminum, and softwood lumber and, as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said, there is no timeline for when they might be lifted.
On Oct. 11, the Liberals did announce new measures to prevent a damaging flood of steel imports into Canada. As a result, on Oct. 25, imports of seven U.S. steel products will be subject to a 25 per cent surtax when the level of those imports exceed historical norms. They have also requested that the Canadian International Trade Tribunal conduct an inquiry to determine whether long-term safeguards are warranted. While these are welcomed actions, we remain disappointed that the Liberal government has failed to put forward a concrete plan to deal with U.S. protectionism including providing measures in their latest Budget that could have prepared the steel and aluminum industry for the inevitable U.S. tariffs. A Conservative-led government would have fought much harder to defend Canadian interests.
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