The new North American trade pact will be ratified by the federal government but only after Canada’s opposition parties attempt to stretch out debate over it, the head of Canada’s parts association said the day after meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I think we’re all confident that it’s going to be ratified,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association. “The question is [whether] it’s smooth sailing or not. My personal opinion, I fully expect the opposition parties use every lever they have to stretch that debate, and I think that is folly. We’ve had three years to publicly debate this, and the terms won’t change.”
Volpe and other Canadian supplier executives met with Trudeau on Thursday at an ABC Technologies facility in Brampton, Ont., near Toronto. There, Trudeau touted the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which awaits ratification in Canada after being approved by the other countries.
“It’s a real pleasure to be moving forward with the ratification of [the USMCA], which means better jobs and more secure jobs for the workers not just here but right across the country,” Trudeau said at ABC on Thursday, according to a video posted on his Twitter account. “Access to the United States has now been secured.”
MPs on Wednesday voted on a motion to begin the process of debating ratification. Trudeau’s Liberals, now in a minority, will need support from one of the opposition parties for it to pass the House of Commons.
The process could prove to be contentious, as Liberals seek a swift ratification while members of the opposition parties could seek lengthy debate over its provisions or reject it. The Bloc Quebecois, for instance, voted against the Wednesday motion to begin debate.
Volpe warned that delaying ratification could put Canada in a precarious situation after United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the U.S. implementation bill.
“We’re now in a state of play where the president of the United States has announced that the USMCA is in force, when it really isn’t,” Volpe said. “And we’re the only holdup. A president that survives the impeachment trial is not one that is going to worry about the consequence of rash actions. So I think it’s important that we remove the uncertainty, however small, immediately.”
Volpe said Trudeau and suppliers also discussed federal fuel economy standards and the association’s view that the government should not go it alone on those standards.
The Trump administration has moved to roll back fuel economy standards set by former President Barack Obama. Canada typically follows the standards set by the United States, but whether it will do so in the future is up in the air.
Canada in June signed a memorandum of understanding with California on advancing cleaner vehicles. California was among 22 states in November that filed a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration decision to revoke California’s authority to set its own emissions rules.
Volpe said after meeting with Trudeau that he sensed the federal government would wait until after the case makes its way through the courts before making a decision on fuel economy standards.
“What they’ll do after is still up in the air,” he said. “But the main risk was Canada declaring its own fuel economy standards before that. I think that risk has faded.”
Volpe said Canada would risk hurting its auto supply sector if it were to implement its own standards now. He said those concerns were relayed to Trudeau and that the prime minister appeared to understand their perspective.
“The political impetus to be overly bold in that space is gone,” Volpe said. “That doesn’t mean they won’t do something very thoughtful and on brand with their climate stewardship, but he certainly sounded like he knew what was at risk.”
With files from Reuters and the Canadian Press.