Canada signs new NAFTA deal with U.S., Mexico

Revised deal met with applause and anger from Canadian industry associations

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Mexico President Enrique Pena Neto, left, as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, looks on after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A deal on amending the new North American free trade agreement appears close following a busy weekend, with hopes Canada, Mexico and the United States will approve a rewritten deal in the next 24 hours. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Mexico President Enrique Pena Neto, left, as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, looks on after participating in the USMCA signing ceremony, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A deal on amending the new North American free trade agreement appears close following a busy weekend, with hopes Canada, Mexico and the United States will approve a rewritten deal in the next 24 hours. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Canada joined the United States and Mexico in heralding a new era of North American prosperity on Tuesday as they formally agreed to changes to the new continental free trade deal.

The amended deal comes after years of intense negotiations marked by bickering, threats and frustration.

“This has been a long, arduous and at times fraught negotiation,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was in Mexico City for the elaborate signing ceremony.

U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Mexican undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade signed the document beside her.

“All of us together have finally accomplished what we set out to do at the very outset: a win-win-win agreement which will provide stability for workers in all three of our countries for many years to come,” Freeland said.

The three countries originally signed a renegotiated North American free trade pact a year ago, but U.S. ratification stalled as Democrats in Congress and their organized labour allies bickered with Mexico over labour rights, as well as the deal’s treatment of steel and aluminum.

Democrats were upset with provisions around intellectual-property rules on pharmaceuticals and settling disputes, all of which led to fresh negotiations to amend the deal by tightening up some areas of the proposed agreement and loosening others.

The revised deal was immediately met with both applause and anger from various Canadian industry associations and others, with some blasting the new deal as harmful to Canada and others welcoming the changes and the agreement’s imminent ratification by all three countries.

Among those voicing tacit approval for the new deal were usual suspects like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Ottawa, but also Canada’s largest union, Unifor, and the Council of Canadians advocacy group, which has long criticized the previous NAFTA.

“The new (deal), while far from perfect, provides a road map to implement necessary changes in trade policy to benefit workers,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a statement. ”The improvements announced today are a helpful boost in achieving those objectives.”

While also describing the new agreement as flawed, Sujata Dey, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said: ”The changes to this deal show that while we are up against unprecedented corporate power, we are able to make a difference when we work together.”

However, the aluminum and brand-name pharmaceutical sectors were particularly upset with the revisions, which saw Mexico agree to a tighter definition on what constitutes North American steel but not aluminum and a loosening of intellectual-property rules on medication.

READ MORE: Feds face calls to protect aluminum industry as new NAFTA deal appears close

“This is disappointing news for Canada’s innovative pharmaceutical industry, which is already facing significant challenges launching new medicines and attracting new investment in Canada,” said Innovative Medicines Canada president Pamela Fralick said in a statement.

“Today’s announcement sends the wrong signal to the thousands of researchers and scientists across the country who have dedicated their lives to finding new cures and innovative treatments to help Canadians live longer, healthier lives.”

NDP trade critic Daniel Blaikie said his party was eager to see more details on the amendments before making any firm decisions on whether to support the deal, including the provisions on aluminum and intellectual-property rules for pharmaceuticals.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, however, warned that his party will not support the deal if Canada’s aluminum industry is not protected, describing the industry in French as “not only important in Quebec, it is emblematic of Quebec.”

Freeland, Lighthizer and Seade went out of their way to defend the deal in separate addresses prior to signing the agreement, with the Canadian deputy minister insisting the federal Liberal government “worked hard to defend the interests and values of Canadians.”

Seade made a particularly lengthy defence of the deal, which will see the U.S. monitor Mexican labour reforms that include increasing wages for the country’s automotive workers and more protections from violence.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in Washington on Tuesday morning that congressional Democrats were supportive of the changes, which were also approved by their AFL-CIO trade federation allies, paving the way for implementing legislation to finally be tabled in Congress.

“This is a day we’ve all been working to and working for,” Pelosi said.

READ MORE: U.S. can’t show harm from Canadian softwood industry, NAFTA panel says

The Democrats announced support for the deal the same day they introduced articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the deal will be tabled, though Pelosi did say Democrats were hoping to get moving before the end of the congressional session on Dec. 20.

Mexico ratified the original deal in June while the Canadian government said it was waiting to ratify the agreement at the same time as the U.S.

There had been concerns the agreement, which aims to update the NAFTA, would not be approved before Congress disperses until 2020 and its focus shifts to next fall’s presidential election.

U.S. President Donald Trump, labour unions and many Democratic lawmakers branded NAFTA 1.0 a job-killer for America because it encouraged factories to move south of the border, capitalize on low-wage Mexican workers and ship products back to the U.S. duty-free.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

Selkirk College’s Tenth St. Campus in Nelson is among the locations where Interior Health will deliver the COVID-19 vaccine within the West Kootenay. Photo: Selkirk College
West Kootenay vaccine locations announced

Interior Health has released a list of places to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
Father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

baseball back in Butler
Play Ball! Butler Park opening for league play

City council gives approval and guidance for Trail Youth Baseball season

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complaints about that condo

Most Read