Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, said in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson that because of the partisanship set to engulf both Canada and the United States towards the end of the year, it may run the risk of not getting done at all — though he said he remains optimistic the deal will be ratified.
“I think there’s a good chance things will get there. The question is when and how,” he said.
“I’m more concerned about when it happens because, maybe, if it happens after the Canadian election or into 2020, all bets are off because we’re into a very partisan, hyper-partisan environment.”
WATCH BELOW: Canada to move ‘in tandem’ with U.S. on revised NAFTA ratification
The Canadian federal election is set for Oct. 21 while the Americans head into the presidential primaries in February 2020 before a general election that fall.
While a majority Canadian government would be able to pass any ratification legislation, a minority result could create greater uncertainty for businesses if one or both parties turns the ratification issue into a political hot potato.
In the United States, as well, the new NAFTA proved to be a central subject of political rhetoric during the last presidential campaign as then-Republican candidate Donald Trump threatened to tear it up.
It is currently the subject of intense political wrangling in Congress between the Republicans and the Democrats, with the latter raising concerns that the renegotiated deal doesn’t do enough to enforce labour standards to protect American workers from cheap foreign labour in places like Mexico.
U.S Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi are holding working groups with a number of Democrats to look at ways to address their concerns and get the deal ratified this summer.
WATCH BELOW: Freeland says lifting of steel, aluminum tariffs paves way for new NAFTA ratification
Trudeau has also urged Democrats to recognize that many of their concerns are also concern shared by Canadian Liberals, and that many are addressed in the existing progressive chapters on labour standards, environmental protections and gender rights in the new agreement.
Hyder said the willingness of Lighthizer to sit down with the Democrats shows there is a strong effort being made to get the deal done.
He added those conversations only add to its confidence that officials will find a way to ratify the deal before the elections.
“I think the first indication is Speaker Pelosi and Lighthizer are working very hard to address the issues in the Democratic caucus.”
Legislation to ratify the new NAFTA is currently before the Canadian House of Commons at second reading.
The Canadian Press reported last week that officials said the Liberals are willing to recall Parliament over the summer if needed to get the bill passed.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the goal is to move “in tandem” with the U.S. on the process.