Despite delays, Democrats south of the border will likely still end up ratifying the USMCA trade deal, one expert says.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Christopher Sands — director of the Center for Canadian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies — acknowledged what he called a “tension” in current American politics between the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump and the lingering need to ratify the renegotiated NAFTA.
But he said he continues to believe the latter will still get done.
“I actually am still optimistic that it will be passed,” he said, pointing to the planned visit on Wednesday of Richard Neal, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss the deal.
Sands added that from his view, ratifying the deal may help the Democrats make the argument that they are trying to work in a bipartisan manner at a time when partisan tensions in the U.S. are reaching new levels amidst the launch of impeachment proceedings.
“I think Democrats want to pass USMCA so they can say look, we can do things, we can even do bipartisan things, but there is a rule of law, impeachment matters, and Donald Trump has to answer for the bad things he’s done or may have done.”
Trump had initially threatened to tear up NAFTA but agreed to renegotiate it instead.
Canadian, American and Mexican officials formally began renegotiation talks in August 2017.
Those concluded in September 2018 with a new agreement that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose hailed as a win and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer criticized as making too many concessions to the Americans.
The deal was signed in November 2018 but must be ratified by the legislatures of all three countries before it can take effect.
Mexico ratified the deal in June 2019 but neither Canada or the U.S. have done so.
Freeland and Trudeau have said Canada will move in lockstep with the U.S. towards ratifying the deal.
But it has come under scrutiny by some Democrats south of the border who have questioned whether its labour standards are tough enough and there have been few indications of when the deal could come for a vote in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Democrats.
Trudeau’s government had tabled legislation before the House of Commons rose for the summer that would have let him recall MPs to ratify the trade before the election if the U.S. was able to get it ratified during that time period.
But once the election was called, that bill died and any new one would need to be reintroduced in the House of Commons.
While Trudeau has said he will name his cabinet on Nov. 20, he has not said whether he plans to recall MPs before the scheduled winter break, which normally lasts until the end of January.
That’s right before the first polls begin in February for the Democratic primary race, which runs until June 2020.
The U.S. presidential election will take place on Nov. 3, 2020.