Canada takes first step to ratify continental trade pact

Canada’s parliament approved the new continental trade pact with the United States and Mexico. (AFP pic)

OTTAWA: Canada’s parliament took a first step Tuesday toward approving a new continental trade pact with the US and Mexico, with the country’s envoy to Washington saying full ratification may occur by the end of July.

The step – passing the ways and means motion to introduce an act to implement the trade agreement – clears the way for Ottawa to present the actual treaty to parliament as early as Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa intends to “move ahead with the ratification process as much as possible in tandem with our partners, particularly with the US.”

Canada’s ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, who was in Ottawa to brief officials, told reporters he believes there is “a reasonable chance that the US Congress will pass this deal before the summer recess at the end of July.”

“And I think you know, as the minister said, we want to be in position where we can move in tandem with the United States and Mexico on this deal.”

The three nations signed the US-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), which is to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement – last year after months of negotiations.

It must be ratified by all three countries in order to come into force.

US President Donald Trump this month cleared a key stumbling block by removing contentious US tariffs on imports of Canadian and Mexican steel and aluminum, which both countries demanded as a pre-condition of moving forward on the trade pact.

But Democrats in Congress continue to have concerns about workers’ rights, dispute resolution and other issues.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to welcome US Vice President Mike Pence to Ottawa to discuss implementation of the treaty.