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.

Just Posted

Liam’s Lowdown: it’s the little things that get you

At first, the name of my column was going to be Liam’s Lament

Despite brief shut downs Revelstoke’s Downie Timber weathering the storm

The forestry industry is taking a hit across the province

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Aug. 21

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Aug. 21

Two musical acts playing The Last Drop on Aug. 24

See John Michael Lind and She Hangs Brightly

VIDEO: B.C. Mountie killed by drunk driver honoured by memorial playground

Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground opens with ceremony in Langford

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Renter of torched Okanagan home a British Army veteran, new Canadian

Owen Wilson was just beginning to settle into life in Canada when the blaze occurred

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Okanagan Nation bringing overdose awareness to Syilx Okanagan communities

The Purple Ribbon Campaign for International Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 28

Meet the Okanagan’s newest homeless outreach team

The Vernon Homeless Outreach Team makes its first formal appearance Aug. 28 at Upper Room Mission

Most Read