OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will move next week to formally approve North America's new, long-delayed free trade pact.
Trudeau says the government will introduce a ways and means motion Jan. 27 when Parliament resumes, and will table legislation to ratify the deal two days later.
Trudeau says millions of Canadians depend on stable, reliable trade with their largest trading partners.
That will effectively remove the final legal hurdle in preserving continent-wide trade after President Donald Trump foisted the acrimonious renegotiation of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement on Canada and Mexico in 2017.
Last week, the Republican-led U.S. Senate passed its so-called implementation bill of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The Liberal government had been waiting for the U.S. to formally ratify the pact before introducing its own bill, after Mexico ratified the deal back in June.
Ratifying the new North American Free trade deal is a top priority for the Trudeau government.
The deal will require the support of at least one major opposition party to pass; a defeat on matters of confidence, such as the coming budget, would topple the government.
The Liberals can probably rely on the support of the Conservatives to win ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, despite the fact that the Tories have accused Trudeau of caving in to concessions demanded by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The NDP and the Bloc are likely to oppose USMCA, which replaces the old North American Free Trade Agreement.
On Monday, government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said ratification of the new NAFTA is "an absolute priority" — a view echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was the lead minister throughout the tortuous negotiations to renew the continental trade pact and who remains responsible for seeing it across the finish line.
"The new NAFTA was ratified last week by the U.S. Senate, it was ratified before Christmas by Mexico. Now it's Canada's turn," Freeland said.
"I think that is very important for certainty in the Canadian economy, very important for millions of Canadian workers, of Canadian businesses, of Canada families."
Rodriguez called upon opposition parties to ratify the deal "as quickly as possible."
"I think we should send a strong message that we are united in the ratification of this very, very important agreement," he said.
The government did introduce a ratification bill last year, but did not forge ahead with it, preferring not to get ahead of the ratification process in the United States. The bill died when the election was called.