Labour, environment standards key to getting USMCA through

Canada’s Ambassador David MacNaughton explained key standards Monday night

Canada’s pressure to include “soft things” like labour standards in the new North American free-trade treaty will help secure critical support for the deal from Democrats in the United States Congress, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. says.

Now that the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico have signed the agreement, it needs ratification from legislators in all three countries before taking effect. Democrats will get control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January and some won’t eagerly support a treaty President Donald Trump’s representative Robert Lighthizer negotiated.

But Canada’s Ambassador David MacNaughton said Monday that Lighthizer’s support was key to including measures on the environment, labour standards, and a wage floor, all of which should appeal to Democratic Party critics.

“It helped us get to where we are,” MacNaughton said at a Public Policy Forum dinner in Ottawa.

Nevertheless, Canada isn’t assuming ratification will be easy. MacNaughton said Canadian diplomats will rev up their machine to lobby members of Congress for their support.

And there remains the matter of crippling tariffs on steel and aluminum the Trump administration imposed on imports from Canada, ostensibly for national-security reasons, while the treaty negotiations were on.

“We’re not going to celebrate with these tariffs hanging over our heads,” MacNaughton said.

RELATED: Canada has ‘high level of confidence’ USMCA will be ratified in U.S.: Morneau

The ambassador said he’s pleased that a side letter to the treaty assures Canada that no similar tariffs can be applied to cars made in Canada and exported to the United States. That letter is already in effect, he said.

At a separate event in New York, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Canada takes seriously comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump about withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the older treaty the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is to replace.

On Saturday, Trump told reporters he planned to give formal notice of his intentions to withdraw from NAFTA, which would give American lawmakers six months to approve the USMCA or have no free-trade pact with Canada and Mexico. It’s widely seen as a pressure tactic to keep legislators from dawdling.

“We take everything seriously,” Morneau said when asked whether he took the president’s comments at face value. “While we’ll have to watch and ensure we get through this next stage, we have a high level of confidence that’s achievable.”

Morneau made the comments at an event co-hosted by Politico and the Canadian consulate in New York.

RELATED: Trump to kill old NAFTA to push Congress to approve USMCA

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s senior economic adviser, said he and Trump hadn’t spoken in detail about the president’s thinking.

“I think he’s trying to light a fire under Congress — that’s my guess, my hunch,” Kudlow told a conference call with reporters.

“The ceremonies, the signing — the president’s very happy with all of that. Everybody showed up. Trudeau showed up and so forth. And we’re rolling. Congress, on the other hand, is not rolling, and I think President Trump’s intent here was to light a fire under Congress.”

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

Senior Boys Rainmakers charge into the new year with tourney win

Mix of high powered offensive and shutdown defence lead Charles Hays to victory

Cold snaps all weather records in Prince Rupert

Coldest day of the Year? No. Coldest Day of the decade? No. Coldest day of the century? Maybe…

Charles Hays fly to victory at Prince George Condor Classic

Junior Rainmakers soared through first two games to set up a dramatic final

Prince Rupert brings home bronze medal from Quesnel

All-West Glass Peewee Seawolves score overtime victory at Rep Tournament

Shames Mountain receives $30,000 boost from Rio Tinto

Donation will be used to purchase new conveyor lift on bunny hill

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Most Read