OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is remaining mum on the ratification timeline for the new North American free-trade agreement but he says Canada will be aligning itself "very much" with the pace of the American legislative process.
Trudeau says the trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada is a "good deal" for Canadians and the government will keep moving forward on its ratification.
Trudeau's remarks came prior to a cabinet meeting this morning and after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled a motion in the Commons on Monday, laying the groundwork for ratifying the pact.
Freeland has said the full lifting of the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports has helped to pave the way for a formal approval of the deal.
She is expected to update her cabinet colleagues on plans to table the necessary legislation to ratify the deal that was signed on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last November.
FREELAND PREDICTS DEAL WILL PASS
The new North American free trade agreement will beat its June legislative deadline and be ratified by Parliament, Freeland predicted Monday, but she acknowledged that Canada can't bring the new deal into force by itself.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — USMCA, or CUSMA to Canadian officials — requires the ratification of all three countries, which is why the federal government is collaborating so closely with its other two partners, she said after question period Monday.
"I am confident we will be successful moving forward," said Freeland, who kicked off the process Monday by tabling a so-called “ways and means motion” in the House of Commons.
"Of course, the entry into force of this agreement does not depend solely on Canada."
In the politically tumultuous U.S., it remains an open question at the moment whether Congress can muster progress on anything, including the new continental trade pact and a plan to unleash infrastructure spending to fix crumbling American bridges and roads.
SOME BLOWBACK IN U.S.
President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who controls the agenda in the House of Representatives, are locked in a bitter battle. Pelosi has questioned Trump's fitness for office, while he has branded her "crazy" and incapable of understanding the complexities of the agreement.
On Thursday, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence will be in Ottawa, where he is expected to exchange views with Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the legislative way forward in their two countries.
"It will be interesting for us to hear from Vice-President Pence about the U.S. domestic ratification process," Freeland said, adding that Canada will move forward in tandem with the U.S. as much as possible in order to get the deal approved.
She also said last week's "full lift" of the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Canadian imports has paved the way for formal approval of the new deal, and that she plans to brief the federal cabinet soon on plans to table the necessary ratification bill.
Less than two weeks ago, Freeland hosted her Mexican counterparts in Toronto where they discussed how Canada and Mexico can collaborate on "the very ambitious labour reforms that Mexico has now passed, which are an important part of the new NAFTA."
Canada and the U.S. pushed Mexico to improve workers' rights during the rocky NAFTA renegotiation, which culminated in a deal late last September, because they wanted to level the playing field between their workers and lower-paid Mexican workers, especially in the auto sector.
Last month, Mexico's lower house of Congress approved a reform of labour law that aims to ensure workers can freely vote for their union representation and contracts.